Merrimon Book Reviews

General Primo de Rivera
Spanish dictator, aristocrat, and a military official who was appointed Prime Minister by the King and who for seven years (1923-1930) was a dictator

Jesuit in Barcelona, 1920s

Barcelona, 1929
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From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Angel's Game
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Dark, gothic with a bit of a Faustian twist
In 1920s Barcelona, novelist David Martin pens penny dreadfuls under the pseudonym Ignatius B. Sampson for Barrido and Escobillas publishers.  From his youth, the novel Great Expectations given to him by the bookseller Sempere, has haunted his literary aspirations. When a mysterious foreign publisher offers him a deal he cannot resist and the freedom to write a novel that promises to match his inspiration, the dream taunts him until he can no longer resist.  Obsessed by a love he cannot obtain and his desire to write something meaningful, David enters a different world.  A manuscript from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books has a frightening parallel to his own literary, mental and life journey.  The promise of literary freedom juxstaposes itself with the increasing influence of publisher Andreas Corelli which seems to reach into all areas of his life.  As David struggles to unravel the threads that bind him, Carlos Ruiz Zafron takes the reader on a journey through Barcelona and the internal jounrey of a writer obsessed with a woman and literature itself. 

Somewhat of a prelude to his previous book, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, Carlos Ruis Zafron's THE ANGEL'S GAME is part of a planned 4 book literary work.  Readers familiar with the first work will recognize certain characters and settings but this book can be easily read as a stand alone or before the previously released book.  Dark and gothic, Carlos Ruis Zafron takes the reader on a journey where real and not real combine to create a haunting exterior and interior landscape full of intrigue.  Striking connections between the seemingly realistic events of the plot, literary allusions, and the vision of writer obsessed with love and writing intertwine throughout the narrative.  At every turn, death touches the life of the narrator David Martin, not only the prospect of his own death but the death of love and the death of books and a sinister trail of deaths of those around him.  Plots and subplots twist and turn the reader.  Nothing is as it seems and yet everything is what is seems --- though perhaps not on a literal level.  Sometimes chapters or sections end with an ominous tone, but will the ending bear out the dark foreshadowing tone?  Early on, THE ANGEL'S GAME reads like a strange and new Faustian journey and yet the author's work is not a simple reworking of this classic tale.  Carlos Ruis Zafron brings his own vision and style to the Faust story and an ending which changes the perimeters and thus the shades of meaning and interpretation in new and exciting ways.   THE ANGEL'S GAME appealed to my sense of wanting something new to shake up my typical reading patterns.  Don't expect a straight, literal realistic book but rather a literary feast that will keep the imagination alive from page to page. 

To women readers used to reading women's fiction, THE ANGEL'S GAME has a vision that is both classically familiar and a bit jolting.  THE ANGEL'S GAME just has a more classic masculine point of view in which the male narrator/writer discovers themselves and the world of literature and the women characters are placed in the role of an ethereal and passive place of honor, much like David Martin's research exposition of religion for the book he intends not to write.  This does not necessarily lessen the beauty of this book as it does not lessen the beauty of classic literary fiction or one's desire to read it.   It is more an observation than a value judgement.   For those women readers who grew up on the literary classics and have, once out of classic academia, expanded their reading to include women authors as a large part of their reading material, the distinctive masculine voice will stand out more than it might have years ago. 

Publisher: Doubleday (June 16, 2009)
Translator: Lucia Graves

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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