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Beautifully poetic The Winterlings appeals to lovers of Spanish literature
December 23, 2016
Cristina Sánchez-Andrade, Samuel Rutter
Restless Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pub Date: November 1, 2016
Fiction / Gothic
The Winterlings flows smoothly, more like poetry than prose. It isn't a gothic in the traditional sense, but like in gothics women and the conception of femininity play a central role.
This is a novel that will definitely appeal more to an academic audience than the general public.
The story centers around two sisters who return to the Spanish village where they once lived with their grandfather. After a youth spent in exile, their return revives the old fears, superstitions and resentments that led to their grandfather's murder during the Spanish civil war. Like the characters in a morality play, each resident is distinctly human, but has a grotesque almost absurd aspect. The life of the village and the interactions of its residents is juxtaposed against the glory of the cinema. Both sisters love film and yearn to escape, to become someone else. Identity issues are at the heart of this tale, from the yearning sisters to the cross dressing dentist.
The Winterlings is an unusual novel, lyrical and beautiful but ultimately disturbing. I do not believe it will appeal to a wide audience, as it moves forward slowly and doesn't have a plot in the traditional sense. It will however have immense appeal to lovers of literature.
I received a copy of The Winterlings from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“Cristina-Sánchez-Andrade is, simply, one of the best writers in Spain. Her language is vastly rich. A memorable narration. A flawless and unusual novel.” —El Correo Gallego
Galicia, Spain’s northwest region, in the 1950s. After a childhood in exile, two sisters return to their grandfather’s cottage for the first time since his shocking murder during the civil war. “The Winterlings” try to keep their dark secrets buried and carve out a peaceful existence in Tierra de Chá, an idyllic village host to a cast of grotesque but charming characters: a powerful psychic, a madman who believes he is a bus, a woman who refuses to die and the obese priest who heaves up a steep hill each day to give her last rites, a cross-dressing dentist who plants the teeth of the deceased in his patients’ mouths.
Tension mounts when the sisters, once united by their passion for Hollywood cinema, compete for the chance to stand in for Ava Gardner in the nearby filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Meanwhile, a mutual suspicion develops between the mysterious sisters and the eccentric villagers: Why have the women returned, and what are they hiding? What perverse business arrangement did the townspeople make with their grandfather, and why won’t they speak of his death?
Enchanting as a spell, The Winterlings blends Spanish oral tradition, Latin American magic realism, and the American gothic fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson into an intoxicating story of romance, violent history, and the mysterious forces that move us.