What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

The Frost on His Shoulders

The Frost on His Shoulders - Lorenzo Mediano, Lisa Dillman I was provided a copy for review by Europa Editions through the GoodReads First Reads program. It is much appreciated!Lorenzo Mediano's The Frost on His Shoulders (trans. Lisa Dillman) is the recounting of events in a mountain village in the Pyrenees by the local school teacher. These events are controversial: love across social class in a land- and inheritance-obsessed village, where grudges and feuds last for generations. The unnamed school teacher's student, Ramon, falls in love with Alba, the daughter (and only child) of a wealthy land owner. Desperation, separation by a parental authority, and violence all ensue. To be blut, this is a plot we've all read before. There aren't any particularly striking new twists to the narrative, nor are they any cute re-imaginings to this basic plot line. We know where it's going from the beginning, and an intelligent reader with pick up on it from reading the front flap description of the novel. What saves this novel is the distinctive narrative voice of the school teacher, who is from the city unlike many of the participants in the story. He chooses to interpret these events through the lens of the atmosphere of tumultuous early 20th-cenntry Spain. A working man challenges land-ownership, and the reactions of the various houses/families are interpreted through a political lens. The descriptions and appreciation for the landscape in which this novel is set also comes through. While I'm unsure at what the book jacket designers meant when adding that this novel is a "gripping work of eco-fiction", the landscape proves to be a driving force in the villagers lives. The quality of the language (which being a novel in translation means that the translator gets some credit for this as well) is exemplarily as usual from an Europa Editions publication. There is also some originality in the motivation for the teacher retelling this story. The spark for the retelling is not in itself romantic. Instead, he's reacting to a newspaper article written about Ramon and Alba with which the villagers disagree. This kind of framing is intriguing, and the reader never gets to read the article for themselves (leaving the reader in the hands of a possibly unreliable narrator). Overall, with a well worn plot, this novel manages to come off with some degree of originality from the framing and narration. It's not the best and most original thing I've ever read, but I wouldn't mind sitting down with the schoolteacher from Biescas de Obago to see what other stories he has to tell.

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