Friday, January 9, 2015

In the Beginning Was the Sea, by Tomas Gonzalez. Pushkin Press 2014; orig pub. 1983

This is a grim little book that is published for the first time in English. It was so grim that I had trouble finishing it- and like I said, it’s a very small book. It’s not that the writing is bad- far from it- but the plot is one of bad luck and bad decisions and the characters are not likeable whatsoever.

In the 1970s, J. and his wife Elena decide to give up on their careers and go and live off the land- with investments to sustain them, of course. They have bought a small estate, or finca, sight unseen and taken a loan on it. They figure on planting trees, selling coconuts and mangoes, running cattle, and having a few chickens. These two are woefully unprepared for this sort of life. Nothing is as they imagine in their rosy dreams; the house is a falling apart shack, the cattle die or get stolen as fast as they reproduce, and they can produce no income. J. can best be described as a fool who trusts – both people and fate- too easily; Elena is sullen, resentful, nasty to people, and a poster child for white privilege. It’s obvious things won’t go well; in fact, the narrator lets us know that very early in the tale. Yet as unpleasant as it all is, I couldn’t stop reading. The writing *is* good, and the story is like watching a slow motion auto accident- you just can’t look away. 

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I received this book free from the Amazon Vine program. 

Neither of these things affected my review. 

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