A Broken Mirror
As the biographical note explains, Rodoreda is a Catalan writer now being rediscovered as literary force more than 20 years after her death. This novel opens as young Teresa Goday works a minor scam on her wealthy husband in order to raise funds to have her illegitimate son secretly adopted. From there the kaleidoscope of perspectives (which cannot accurately be called a “plot”) shifts between Teresa’s first and second husbands, her son Masdéu, her daughter Sofía, Sofía’s playboy husband Eladi, and their children, who are by turns vicious and pathetic. Several generations of servants also provide their perspectives on this decaying noble family.
The personal sagas are paralleled by national drama, including the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship, though I only know this from reading the back cover. Very little mention is made of the political turmoil of the times, and the war appears to last for fewer than ten pages. Readers with expectations of loose ends being tied up, mysteries solved and character paths crossing will be disappointed; Rodoreda gives us a pastiche rather than a linear narrative. The soap opera-esque beginning leads us to expect either a happy ending or a very sad one; for better or for worse, this expectation is turned on its head. The translation suffers some minor bumps and hitches from time to time, with two or three (apparent) errors that interfere with the smooth readability of the prose.
Despite its slender appearance, this book is neither a quick read nor a light one; pick it up if you enjoy reading gorgeously experimental descriptions of love, death, adultery, incest, murder and spiritual hunger.