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The Sleeping World: A Novel by Gabrielle…

The Sleeping World: A Novel

by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes

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It took me a long time to read this book. I stopped partway through and felt no urge to finish it. Finally, I decided to take a second look before sending it back to the library, and I'm so glad I did. Because while it's a hard book, in its subject and pacing, it's also gripping and ravishing.

1970's Spain at the end of the Franco regime decides to compromise, ignoring its recent fascist past in order to move into the future. Mosca, however, can't do the same. She has to undertake a painful journey through the circles of hell her country would rather ignore, in order to understand how to outlive the past.

The pacing is often slow, and the poetry of the language sometimes lapses into repetition. Still, it's a stunning and ambitious first novel that unfolds into increasing richness as it progresses. ( )
  sharonstern | Mar 5, 2017 |
This is a frightening novel of life in Spain right after the death of Franco in 1977. Mosca, a college student, has lost her parents to secret police murders, and is asked by her activist brother Alexis to hold on to incriminating evidence he has gathered. She and three companions travel to Madrid, Paris, and Cadiz to track down Alexis when he goes missing. They freeze and starve on their journey, and are dogged by informers and by trackers. What's inside Mosca's head is very disturbing, as is the entire climate of the country. The time and place were completely unfamiliar to me, as Franco was just a joke on Saturday Night Live before I read this book. Valuable as history but very difficult to stay with. ( )
  froxgirl | Jan 20, 2017 |
Note: I hate writing reviews of books that don't wow me. It feels wrong to criticize art, something that the author has likely poured her heart into and fretted over for years. Perhaps it's my own defensiveness toward criticism (I don't take it well, although I'm getting better with age). Let's face it, I would never make it in the literature world.

Also on the self-realization note, one of my pet peeves in literature is overdone imagery and symbolism, or as I have described it in the past, "metaphor on steroids." Don't get me wrong, I love metaphor, and magical realism is one of my favorite genres. BUT, there are times when the symbolism is so overdone that it becomes cumbersome to read and takes away from the plot (what can I say, I'm a sucker for plot). I should also preface this review with a disclaimer that life has been a bit on the hectic side recently, so my ability to cognitively process anything more than "fire bad, tree pretty" (points for anybody who caught that reference) is nil. All of this is to say that I'm not sure I gave The Sleeping World the attention and concentration it deserved.

The Sleeping World takes place in late 1970s Spain, shortly after Francisco Franco's death, and follows 4 young adults, each actively opposed to the fascist regime and attempting to find his or her in a hostile environment. Mosca, our narrator, is still reeling from her brother's death at the hands of the government. We follow Mosca and her friends as they leave their small college town and travel to Madrid, Paris, and ultimately Cadiz in search of not only themselves, but a sense of peace and forgiveness.

This book has a great premise with a subject matter largely untouched in American literature. The prose is beautiful, the characters and the world they inhabit vivid. Themes of guilt, friendship, and secrets are explored beautifully against the backdrop of one of the darkest times in Spanish history, one that is unfortunately often overlooked. Despite my love of world history, I had to do some googling for an overview of this time period. Therein, the book is a huge success.

So why my hesitancy in writing this review? The pace is slow (often excruciatingly so), which was difficult for me given the aforementioned lack of mental capacity, and the descriptive passages numerous and repetitive at times. From a lyrical standpoint, The Sleeping World is a triumph. For me, though, it felt overwritten and overwrought. There was so much more that could have been explored, so much more characterization that could have taken place, without so much - for lack of a better word - "fluff". It has piqued my interest in the time period, and it's never a bad thing for a book to urge the reader to learn more. If you love lyricism and descriptive prose, you will likely love The Sleeping World. If, on the other hand, you prefer a bit more prose and "meat", you will likely be left dissatisfied.

Thank you to Touchstone for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  joyhclark | Sep 29, 2016 |
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