I closed this book quietly, to just sit still for a moment and let all of the words and story wash over me until it settles softly in my thoughts. This is a difficult book to review because I could have given this book five stars. Could have, being the key words.
But I can't. Because I have too many problems with it. But ah, this book with its dark plot in shadows and the air of the femme fatale in Barcelona and the heart of a writer's soul written in black, flowing ink from a pen that might have been Victor Hugo's very own... this book... I almost don't want to talk about its problems. I just want to let words drip from the very marrow of my bones to somehow capture the feeling of the book, the colors of the words, even though anyone can see that this book was written in black ink.
That is why I loved the book. Because moments spoke to a reader's heart. This book is meant for people who love words and understand the intimate feeling of when a book is able to reflect the shadows of your heart that you might not have even realized was lingering there.
But here is where I pause and just shake my head. Because it didn't last. And that is why I couldn't give this book five stars. Because I had too many problems with the structure of the book. I am not sure if it's because it is a translation and perhaps the original language would have embraced me to its full capacity, but I could not stand the unveiling of the story.
I really did not like how most of the story told by a character reciting their story and past. It made for rather strange and awkward jumps in first person to third person narrative. It was particularly annoying because I would be caught up in this magnificent and tortuous story and then I realize that the person telling the story should have no way of knowing how another character thought. They would tell the story in first person, but share something that seemed more third person omniscient. That might sound really nit-picky, but it bothered me to the extent that I couldn't fully immerse myself into the story.
Another problem with this format of story-telling was that it was dialogue. Or should have been, if the person was telling his or her story to Daniel. But the sentences never sounded like anything a person might say. It was very much so a written sentence, not dialogue. These two points completely threw me out of the head space of the book and made me too aware that I was reading instead of feeling like I was in the character's shoes waiting to know what would happen next.
And then once I was out of the feeling of the book, I started thinking about how annoyed I was of love in this book. See? I was perfectly fine when I was feeling the character's passion and blah blah blah. But not really. How can you expect me to believe that Daniel "loves" Bea? There is nothing to confirm it. He goes from "love" for Clara to lust for Nuria, and then straight into soulmate-forever-and-beyond-and-maybe-idiocy-too for Bea. I just don't get it. I'm all for love and passion, but I wanted to see it beyond obsession. That was my major problem with love in this entire book. You can probably exchange the word "love" with "obsession" and not change anything. Was Julius and Penelope's feelings anything but obsession? Or Nuria and Julius? I am just not convinced at all.
But see here? If I don't think about it too much, I could probably let this quibble on "what is love" slide because the characters's emotional reaction are all very realistic. (It's just I don't believe the basis for their emotion, if that makes sense.)
Ah, there are just so many too-coincidental parallels too, when I start nitpicking. Discovering Julius and Penelope's love as Daniel figures out there's something with him and Bea. The silly thing with the pen. Whatever. I don't feel like nitpicking right now.
This was a lovely book and I can see why people loved it enough to give it five stars and wax poetic about it. But I just can't reconcile the structure of the book's format. So three stars it is. In some ways, it could have been five, and in others, it would have been a two. So it ends up about a three.