The Goldsmith's Secret by Elia Barcelo and David Frye (Translator)

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The Goldsmith's Secret by Elia Barcelo and David Frye (Translator)

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: A novel with stunning lyrical prose but a slightly awkward storyline.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: March 2011
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-0857050052

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'The Goldsmith's Secret' has a wonderfully romantic beginning; alone on a snowy night in New York, the craftsman is puzzling over how to tell his story, and how to separate reality from the overwhelming memories in his mind.

The romance continues as the story unfolds, with the goldsmith taking us back to the town and time of his youth, and the chance meeting that led him to find the love of his life. Telling the tale of romance from many perspectives, we learn the town of Villasanta has labelled his love, the mysterious Celia, as 'a marked woman' and the 'black widow'.

Celia proves as tempting for the reader as for the protagonist, and through Barcelo's beautifully evocative prose, the attraction and subsequent relationship between the two comes vividly to life. As the young boy finds himself drawn to the older woman, everyone has an opinion, but the strength of their feelings for one another outweighs all the obstacles.

Barcelo's talent is in her minimalist writing; her chosen words are always beautiful and carefully chosen for the highest impact. She somehow combines a lavish and expansive descriptive style with economy; no word is wasted. She also demonstrates a great sense of comic timing, as the lush prose is peppered with the occasional matter-of-fact remark that injects humour at surprising moments and brings the reader down to earth exactly when necessary.

Her descriptions create such sparklingly clear imagery, they are almost photographic in the mind; the small town of Villasanta, with the main street shown throughout different periods of history, is alive not just with carefully drawn characters but with the sparse but sufficient descriptions that tell the reader exactly what they need to know. The development of the goldsmith's character is shown clearly over the years, from the boy who had few friends at school, to the man now primarily concerned with perfecting his craft as part of a solitary lifestyle and who dreads returning to his home town.

Although the protagonist in this novella is the only person portrayed in any great depth, there is enough conversation between the characters for the reader to form understanding of the other key characters, mostly his family and his employer. The dialogue, like the description, is economical, but amply portrays what is necessary to know.

However, there are times when the novel becomes frustrating, particularly while the protagonist has his own problems separating reality and fantasy. After the first use of this technique, it can be hard to work out whether it is being used again or whether the story has taken yet another turn into another time.

A novel that begins so beautifully has set itself a challenge in carrying that throughout and the constant switching between times could have been marked out more clearly, if only so the reader could enjoy the lyrical prose without having to stop and wonder every so often, as re-reading paragraphs often seems necessary, but does not assist with the establishing of facts. However, in spite of this, one cannot help wishing that the goldsmith finds the happy ending that he himself seeks from this tale.

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

FURTHER READING: If this book appeals then you might enjoy Heart of Tango by Elia Barcelo and David Frye.

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Buy The Goldsmith's Secret by Elia Barcelo and David Frye (Translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Goldsmith's Secret by Elia Barcelo and David Frye (Translator) at


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