Too right, Your Majesty. Too effing right.
Ok so when books in translation are awful, I always struggle with knowing where to lay the blame. So I’m only going to say the one thing about the writing style, and then spend the rest of this review bitching about the problems I have with plot and assumptions and so forth.
Let’s clear this up: if this is your jam – ‘Everything was pointless. He went to the kitchen and got an apple. Took a bite. Greedily. He stared out the window. It was a hot spring day.’ – then have I got the book for you. If you are like, WHY IS THERE SUCH A HIGH PERIOD:WORD RATIO? then I am like,
So. Luka is five and Dora is, if I am reading the text correctly, two when they meet and become besties, even though…I don’t know if you know any two-year-olds and also five-year-olds but they are like different specieses. But ok, suspension of disbelief, I can buy that Luka and Dora are basically peers and have some mystical connection that nobody else understands and fuck mystical connections but ok, at this point I’m still on board.
And then some six years later Dora’s family moves to Paris and WOE AND GRIEF and Luka becomes a painter who is perfect and breathlessly talented at painting and Dora becomes an actress and is pretty well the best actress ever and also they are both SOOOOOER GOODLOOKING and then they meet again as adults and swoon in tandem and I am like, Well this plot is entirely without conflict.
BUT. *glues hairs back onto head so that she can tear them out in a rage again* So after a few months of mad loving in which Luka doesn’t phone home to let his family OR HIS GIRLFRIEND know that he’s found his lost love, he returns to his village and his girlfriend Klara is all, I’m pregnant. And I am like, Hard luck, fella, because my sympathy-jug is not bone dry. YET. *glowers ominously*
So he marries her WITHOUT TELLING DORA WHO IS WAITING FOR HIM BACK IN PARIS. And when she finally phones and is like, The fuck? He’s all, It’s over, forever, farewell, etc. And I am like, Dude, tell her you knocked up your girlfriend and did the honorable. Don’t give me this vague, melodramatic bullshit.
And in what will turn out to be something of a habit, Dora shows up in the flesh and Luka is like, Yeah, sorry about that, I’m married now and my wife is going to have my kid literally any second, and then they go and (in what will also turn out to be a habit) make adulterous sexy times and I know this sounds all soapy and kind of great but until now, most of the book has been these two yokels talking about how in love they are and reciting Spanish poetry to each other and picking shapes out of the clouds and so when Luka is like, We could kill her, I am like FINALLY SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. (Spoiler: they don’t kill her. My hopes and dreams: crushed.)
Anywert, it turns out that Luka has stopped painting because he has a a family to support and the whole tone is like Klara is this dumpy whore who got herself empreggoed on purpose so that she could break up the Beatles and when the baby is finally born, he’s like, ‘This is the creature that has thrown his life into utter turmoil. Who has taken painting and Dora away from him. He cannot hate her. But he can’t love her either.’ And I am like, WEAR A CONDOM AND/OR STOP BANGING GIRLS YOU DO NOT WANT TO IMPREGNATE. You horse’s ass.
Then there’s lots more of Luka and Dora running around together and the whole village being like *wink* and Klara being kind of a sad case and I’m obviously not supposed to feel sorry for her (that fertile whore) but I do. And then Dora is like, Come back to Paris with me! And Luka is like, *dramatic flail* I have chosen peace and simplicity and non-adultery and while that’s probably the morally upstanding choice, they’re such mopey dicks about it that I’m like, UGH, FINE, GO BE TOGETHER AND LET THE REST OF US GET BACK TO OUR NACHOS. But they aren’t listening to me so Luka stays in the village and Dora goes back to Paris and then it’s like the first half of New Moon with Dora thinking that she’s going to die because her life is such a void etc.
‘At one point, Dora isn’t sure if she’s breathing. She probably is. She looks at her rib cage, yes, it’s moving, so breathing is happening.’ That’s like not knowing you’re crying until you touch your face AKA Lazy Author Shit That Never Happens In Real Life And No Longer Sounds Poetic On Account Of How Only Terrible Authors Do That Now.
There’s a lot of them moping around, bemoaning their horrible fates (the tag-line of the novel is ‘Can true love defy fate?’ and I am like, Fate is not THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF YOUR HORRIBLE CHOICES. YOU HAVE BROUGHT THIS ALL ON YOURSELVES. STOP BLAMING FATE FOR THINGS) and then Dora sneaks back into town for a carefully-timed week of RAMPANT SEX-MAKING that leaves her pregnant-on-purpose and THEN, years LATER Luka finds out that his daughter is not his daughter because Klara cheated on him (that whore) which leaves him free to finally go be with Dora! Only now she’s married! Aaaaaaaand SCENE.
And maybe I’m not romantic or fourteen enough to still think that love excuses everything but these two behave like idiots. At one point, Dora is like, You could have just given Klara child support, and I’m like, YES, YOU COULD HAVE. And then Klara could have married someone ELSE instead of being stuck with somebody who sleeps on the couch and blames her for his artistic decline.
Ugh, you guys. Two caterpillars.