This novel is either a work of genius or an exercise in futility. Luisa, a writer, is working on the next of a series of novels, this one featuring a female psychoanalyst-sleuth who is Luisa’s alter-ego in story form. While plotting her novel, a series of events occurs that parallel both her story concept and the past.
When Luisa was young, one of twin boys died in an accident, leaving Luisa, his brother, Miguel, and Sophia to carry the truth of that fatal afternoon. Now Luisa is fifty-two, a successful author with a twelve-year-old daughter, Elba, and suddenly thrust into a similar situation when she runs into Miguel and Sophia at Elba’s new school, each with their own children. There is an eerie symmetry to the situation, a déjà vu of the terrible incident that led to a twin boy’s death.
This premise sounds appealing: Luisa’s daughter, Elba, literally relives an incident similar to her mother’s, a similar cast of characters lending mystery to the truth. And another twin boy is suspiciously dead. Who is responsible this time? Unfortunately, Posadas’s stream-of-consciousness style imbues the hoped-for pleasure of this novel with a good deal of frustration and confusion.
Luisa is caught in her own fertile imagination, exhibiting a tendency toward duplicity and a vague angst about raising her daughter. The facts of Elba’s birth are made unnecessarily murky by the temporizing of a foolish woman who mixes fact and fantasy with equal measure. In reality, Luisa’s head is filled with the racket of her emotional instability, a tedious rationale for a weak character.
The reader must slog through page after page of random and fantastical dialog, trying to clean the truth of this woman’s clouded perceptions. What is the relationship of these characters from past to present? What is Luisa’s feeling toward Miguel? Sophia? And why has tragedy struck again?
While the author captures the rich and varied flavors of Spain, nothing can save her novel from its troubles and her protagonist’s ambiguity about truth in any form, Elba more a figment of her mother’s imagination than a real person: “We’re creating little monsters.” Questioning how much we know about others - even our children - and how much is made up, Luisa is profoundly irritating, afraid to face the truth when denial is so much more entertaining.
It is difficult to take this author or her premise seriously. Given the confusion between truth and reality, I have a sense that Posadas is toying with her audience, a sly dance of seduction with a joke waiting at the end - and I have no patience for it. I found this book exhausting, and frustrating and finished it only because I have a compulsion to complete what I have started.