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Monday, April 9, 2012

An engaging and unforgettable novel of love in a time of violence



“Duende” is a Spanish word that refers to the deeper, more earthy notes and sounds of life where all is not light. Set in Spain (mainly in Barcelona and Madrid) in the years between World War One and the Spanish Civil War of 1936, duende is a prominent presence in the novel as Spain devolves into increasing social discord and violence. Yet the novel isn’t only about that; it is also about one of the great love stories in literature as these two young men begin their careers and grow as life around them descends into the darkness of civil war and Francisco Franco’s fascist regime. 

Once I opened “Duende” and began reading, I found it impossible to put the book down. 
The story follows the lives of Antonio (“Nayo”) and José from their school days in Barcelona to their studies and developing careers in Madrid and does it so well that I felt I was there as Nayo painted and José studied and taught philosophy as their world gradually descended into violence. Reading “Duende” is more than reading about these two men and the world they lived in, it is being there, being inside their heads as they struggle to comprehend the forces that threaten to tear their world apart. I have seldom read a novel that is quite like this one, that includes in such detail the intellectual and creative struggles of its characters, and makes it so lifelike and lively that I felt a part of the story. How is it possible to include so much information about what a philosopher teaches and an artist struggles with and make it vitally interesting to a reader? Yet Lizzie Eldridge does it, does it superbly well, and does it in her debut novel. I am impressed.
The love between Nayo and José is tender, poignant, and beautifully drawn. I felt I knew these two men, that they’d be a joy to have coffee with, that I couldn’t wait until Nayo’s next exhibit (I even knew what painting I wanted), and I feared for them and their friends as the situation in Madrid worsened. 
Lizzie Eldridge is a writer to watch. I look forward to her next book. This one is a definite 5 star read.

1 comment:

Carole said...

Since you like to read, I wondered if you might be interested in learning more about cryptic crosswords. If so, this is a link to a post I did recently on cryptic crossword clues that involve anagrams. Cryptic Crossword Clues - Anagrams