Banville is a superb writer, a Booker Prize winner. This book is a mystery, so the key elements are time (early 1950s) and place (Dublin and Northern Spain). Banville writes beautifully descriptive phrases; a character is described by “petulance was a pastime”. With such good writing, the plot exposition becomes subtle and effortless – very enjoyable.
Allende’s latest historical fiction novel follows two young Spanish people as they flee the Spanish Civil War in 1938. Roser is a pregnant widow; Victor is the brother of her deceased lover. Their flight to the French border is harrowing. Eventually they are chosen by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to immigrate to Chile but must be married to qualify for the journey. Thus, a long caring relationship is initiated in a new country. A replay of the Spanish Civil War conflict is encountered by the military overthrow of the Allende government in 1973, another battle between freedom and repression. After a 12-year exile in Venezuela, Roser and Victor return to Chile which is their true home. This is an epic story told with Allende’s typical lucidity.
An engrossing story of two people’s 2000-km 90-day journey from Cluny, France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the Chemin St. Jacques aka Camino de Santiago. Zoe is a 45 year old Californian whose partner has died recently. Martin is a 52 year old recently-divorced engineer from Yorkshire, England. Their separate but interlinked journeys offer introspective musings on human truths: that life is complicated and that relationships can be difficult. Nothing earth shattering in the content but presented in a very pleasing and satisfactory manner, and the context of the journey is superb.