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The Boys by Toni Sala

The Boys

by Toni Sala

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“The Boys” is a dark meditation on many things but principally on death and the meaninglessness of life. Jaume and Xavi die in an inexplicable car crash. They were too young to die and leave a fiancé, a family, a farm legacy, and a community to cope with the loss. Sala uses this tragedy to explore multiple themes from four perspectives: Ernest is a local banker; Miqui, a truck driver; Iona, Jaume’s fiancé; and Nil, a failed artist.

The setting is Vidreres, a rural village in the Catalan region of Spain. Sala captures its beauty with much lyrical description, but also relates its decimation from Spain’s harsh recession. What was once a thriving agrarian region is now struggling. Now that the boys are gone, their family cannot hope to maintain their farm and must sell, but who will get it?

The meaninglessness of these deaths and life is Sala’s main theme. As an outsider in the community, Ernest observes the grieving and is troubled by the apparent wastefulness of these deaths. He can’t help but see the deaths in relation of his own highly ordered but meaningless existence. Miqui is struggling to make ends meet. He believes that his father’s generation left him with nothing but debt and a future of work until he dies. He is a misogynistic sex addict who spends most of his free time with prostitutes and Internet porn. Iona has lost her secure future with the death of Jaume. Her parents want to use her as a means of acquiring the farmland that the boy’s parents must sell. Nil has left the farm to attend art school, but has given up that goal. He sees his future in recovering his place on his father’s farm, but is suffering serious psychological problems involving sadism and death. His father has enlisted his help in a strange plot to acquire the farmland.

Another theme in the novel is the irony of isolation in a time of intense connectivity. Sala’s characters have lost a sense of community that previously existed in small towns. Instead they live isolated existences coping alone with modern existence that often seems meaningless. Greed, misogyny, online anonymity, economic collapse, loss of family ties and the struggle to express oneself artistically are explored.

Sala’s pacing is slow, but assured. The characters are vividly drawn and the place is fully realized. Because of his use of four separate inner monologues with the natural human tendency for circular thinking and rumination, Sala’s narratives often seem obscure and meandering, but they merge well into a coherent plot by the end of the novel. ( )
1 vote ozzer | Jan 20, 2016 |
In this slim volume, death—of people, animals, economies, futures, nation-states, identity—is the ultimate mystery, a permanent frustration, but ubiquitous and banal, the most natural thing in the world.
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"The once-bucolic Catalonian village of Vidreres has been ravaged by a harsh recession, and now two of its young men have died in a horrible car crash. As the town attends the funeral, a banker named Ernest heads to the tree where they died, trying to make sense of the tragedy. There he meets a brutish trucker, who in between Internet hookups and trips to prostitutes has taken a liking to Iona, the fiancee of one of the dead boys. Iona might be just what he needs to fix his tawdry life, but she's mixed up with an artist who makes frightening projects. Masterfully conjuring the voices of each of these four characters, Toni Sala entwines their lives and their feelings of guilt, fear, and rage over an unspeakable loss."--Amazon.com.… (more)

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