The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope and John Cullen (Translator)

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The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope and John Cullen (Translator)

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This novel has a tight and claustrophobic (but in a good way) feel to it involving personal tragedy around the time of the Spanish Civil War. Two women from very different backgrounds share a bond which lasts many years and which seems to allow them to lead reasonably happy and fulfilled lives.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099551850

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Although de Lope has written over a dozen novels, this is the first to be translated into English. The cover is as pretty as a picture and screams 'Spanish.' So far, so good. But I have to admit that on the whole most of the European novels I've read over the last year or so, have fallen short of the mark for me. Will this one prove to be different?

And straight away I was struck by de Lope's style: he uses normal, everyday words but it's the way in which they are placed in a sentence which is effective and thought-provoking. Poetic, soporific even - but in a good way as the pace and the location of the novel is rather sleepy. Certain people are on their way to a wedding and a couple of the male members decide to stop off at a bar on the way for a few drinks. In order to raise the suspense level and heighten the overall sense of drama and anticipation, the reader is treated to a detailed description concerning the bar, de Lope style. It works beautifully. It's almost mesmeric in places. I'm there with the characters and I feel that something's not quite right - something is about to happen. And it does.

The bar is located in a sleepy, coastal area and has been run efficiently by a husband and wife. But the Spanish Civil War makes its presence felt and the pair decide to high-tail it. Not only that but they leave behind their teenage daughter, Maria. How irresponsible is that? And yes, I did wonder several times why the daughter didn't take her golden opportunity and run for safety. But then there would have been no novel ...

There are two narratives at the beginning which run alongside one another. They could not be more different or diverse. There's the glamorous and well-heeled members of the wedding party and then there's the poor, perhaps even a little simple-minded, barmaid Maria. We find out early on that Maria is treated abysmally by the soldiers who are now using the bar and accommodation as a makeshift mini barracks. I don't think I really need to spell out what then happens to a pretty, sixteen year old girl when a bunch of macho, fuelled-up soldiers share the same building. Maria Antonia had a feeling that one of the soldiers, if not more than one, was going to rape her. But what astounded me was Maria's attitude to the whole episode. In de Lope's hands, it's tragic. It would make some of us weep, I think. But the author does not use sensationalist language at all. And of course, it's all the more shocking for that.

We learn more about the various member of the wedding party. The bride (Isabel) and her groom do not enjoy a long and blissful married life. Yet again, the war sees to that. Isabel has a lovely home and a very comfortable lifestyle but she's now a young widow. No amount of money can bring him back from the dead. But she's carrying her husband's baby.

As de Lope goes into 'descriptive mode' once again we find out all there is to know about Isabel's daily life. It's lonely and devoid of friends or family dropping by for a chat. Her nearest neighbour is a young doctor who also lives on his own. We get his personal history too. As the novel progresses and the plot deepens the three main characters come to share a common bond. But what could possibly connect a sophisticated widow, a rustic barmaid and a doctor whose best days seem to be behind him. All is revealed in a slow and steady build-up. On the whole, I did enjoy this book but I wouldn't rush to read another in a similar style straight away. But, due to the handful of characters portrayed and the effective story, it all did stay with me after I'd finished the book. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Accordionist's Son by Bernardo Atxaga.

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Buy The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope and John Cullen (Translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope and John Cullen (Translator) at


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