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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stranded by Esther Tusquets

Warning: There may well be more spoilers for The Same Sea As Every Summer and Love is a Solitary Game as this is the third in her (really) loose trilogy.

I'm sure you're all sick to death of hearing about her, but today I'm reviewing Esther Tusquets' novel Stranded; as far as I know this is the last one of her books that has been translated into English, if that's any consolation. So, this novel starts with Elia, a different Elia from Love is a Solitary Game as far as I could gather, as she reels from her husband questioning the love that has been the basis for pretty much her entire life. As she tries to cope, she goes to the seaside town with her best friend Eva, Eva's husband Pablo who has reached his mid-life crisis and Clara, a severely disturbed girl who has been taken in by Eva. With an assortment of unstable personalities like that, things can only go wrong. They don't go wrong all at once though, which I wasn't really expecting considering what the blurb gives away; this is another slow burner, meaning that the blurb gives away events that happen over halfway into the narrative. 
Now, you'll notice that one of the characters that turns up is Clara. Now, this is our link to The Same Sea As Every Summer and Love is a Solitary Game: Clara presumably moves on from Elia and gets involved with Eva and her family and friends. Well, moving on is perhaps an optimistic assessment, considering that she's gone from a young woman who is, admittedly, rather timid but otherwise perfectly normal to a young woman who is totally dependent on the approval and love of Eva. On the one hand, this is a good development for her, as the reader finally gets to see more of her character; on the other, she is fairly loopy now, so what the reader really sees is how the events of the previous two books, amongst other things, have unhinged her. But, Clara is not the only character whose view-point we see events through. Firstly, there's Elia, who has based all her happiness on her husband, only for him to ask "Has it occurred to you that we might not love each other any more?". There's Eva, whose purpose has seemingly always been to help other people and to control people's lives in order for them to be happy, but who is beginning to tire of being the only responsible one. Finally, there's Pablo who has gotten to a point in his life where he realises that his life is hugely different to the one he envisioned he would have when he was younger. These are all deeply flawed characters and so easy to relate to: one of them reminds me of myself at times, another reminds me of my best friend and so on and so forth. It looks at universal issues that people go through, and the way in which people always think that no-one understands them despite this. Writing this now, I think I'm beginning to appreciate this more now than I did when I was actually reading it, which probably reflects the slow, thoughtful pace that Tusquets has down pat. 

Overall, another novel of Tusquets' that I really love. It's a slow, thoughtful journey that I think people need to take in this overly fast, self-centred culture that we have now. 4/5

Next review: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

Signing off,

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