Golden Earrings

Written by Belinda Alexandra
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1970s Paris, a dejected ballet dancer, Paloma, is living with her grandmother, Mamie, in a townhouse-cum-ballet school. One morning she is confronted by a ghost in the courtyard who, looking like a “great étoile of the Paris Ballet,” soundlessly drops a pair of exquisite golden earrings into Paloma’s palm – and disappears. Young Paloma is dumbfounded. She knows only that her family are Spanish refugees, having fled Catalonia following the Civil War. Her father remarried after her mother’s death and lives in another part of the city. In her attempt to solve the mystery of the earrings, Paloma learns of la Rusa, a renowned flamenco dancer who had committed suicide. Following hints from others that lead her nowhere, Paloma finally turns to Mamie and implores her to disclose their family’s secrets.

Belinda Alexandra’s family saga is written from the first-person viewpoint of three different women who lived in Barcelona during the Civil War and in 1970s Paris. However, the plot is coherent, for Alexandra has followed the ‘rules’ for this type of novel by distinguishing each character’s point of view through dated chapters. The novel offers much. Not only is it a superb story of love, hate, and betrayals during those violent times, but it also presents interesting insights into Catalan and gypsy culture and folklore, as well as the niceties of ballet and flamenco dancing. While historical fiction aficionados will enjoy reading about the somewhat obscure Spanish Civil War and 1970s Parisian life, they might find some of the supernatural elements improbable, such as a ghost giving a physical object to a real character. That notwithstanding, the romance, melodrama, and unravelling mystery of the narrative move along at a decent pace to keep us engrossed through the ending of this long novel.