Top critical review
More a collection of short stories than a novel.
Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2015
I had read Lily King's "Euphoria" and discovered her excellent prose so I was eager to begin this book. Though the prose is equally good, Ms. King's storytelling is all over the place. No focus. A zillion characters and little sidetracks everywhere in a relatively small book of 237 pages. Exactly what was the intent of this book ? Whose story were we supposed to be pulled by from beginning to end? The themes are rampant - suicide, surrogate motherhood, bullfighting, the priesthood, homosexuality, Spain, WW II occupation, abandonment, teenage pregnancy, adultery, old age. Every time I began a new chapter, I had to re-read the first two paragraphs to understand whose life we were now reading about. I just felt yanked around continuously never knowing what direction the author was taking the reader. You can't care about that many characters because you never get to fully know each of them when they're given a handful of pages. I don't know what the purpose was of meandering all over several decades and several characters. The book may have been more successful as a collection of short stories but none were developed nor that interesting.