Friday, 26 April 2013

The Sadness of the Samurai

by Víctor Del Árbol
Éditeur : Actes sud - 2013
Collection Babel noir
Roman policier
528 pages - 15.90 $

Lu en français ici

Why that book

I took advantage of a gift card to a bookstore to discover new authors. Victor Del Árbol was part of it. I must say that the prize and the fact that it was a "must read" according to the Bookseller helped a lot!


A betrayal and a murder in pro-Nazi Spain spark a struggle for power that grips a family for generations in this sweeping historical thriller

Fierce, edgy, brisk, and enthralling, this brilliant novel by Victor del Árbol pushes the boundaries of the traditional historical novel and in doing so creates a work of incredible power that resonates long after the last page has been turned.

When Isabel, a Spanish aristocrat living in the pro-Nazi Spain of 1941, becomes involved in a plot to kill her Fascist husband, she finds herself betrayed by her mysterious lover. The effects of her betrayal play out in a violent struggle for power in both family and government over three generations, intertwining her story with that of a young lawyer named Maria forty years later. During the attempted Fascist coup of 1981, Maria is accused of plotting the prison escape of a man she successfully prosecuted for murder. As Maria's and Isabel's narratives unfold they encircle each other, creating a page-turning literary thriller firmly rooted in history.

What I think of it

I really liked this book I read in 10 days, as much for the content that for the form. Del Arbol has a very pleasant way of writing, bringing many reflections without judgment. He really knows how to recreate this dark period in Spain. We understand the fears, the betrayals and the lies experienced by people. We understand why some people fled Spain or the opportunism of others. It is a dark story - as was that time - which reveals a slice of Spain's History that's unworthy, as well as Vichy in France.

History is important to know where we come from or who we are and this book gives it a lot of weight. In this book, it is the story - and History - experienced by some characters that will lead to extreme violence in the next generation. Generation who will tend to repeat the same mistakes by ignorance of their history. We learn therefore a good lesson on the importance of knowing its origins and history, because once the learning is done, the characters are free to choose to stay in the loop of destruction or stop and take another direction. So it's by the parallel with the history of Spain, very well integrated into the story, that the stories of the characters are revealed, allowing us to understand their actions - without excusing them for all that.

As for the plot, it accelerates the pace throughout the book. The relationship between the characters is expertly led and we discover the reason for the violence and injustice of certain situations and we hope that everything works out, but then again, the story takes place in a dark period -1941 and 1981 - and the characters are not always masters of their destiny.

Speaking of story, it is worth noting that it's written in two story, literally, as a key part of the story takes place in 1941 - the origin of the violence - and the second story, which affects the descendants goes to 1981. I also want to emphasize that History is important in the book, but it does not take up too much in the story. There are not whole pages of explanation, this is not an essay on the Franco regime.

Last point - but not least - the detective story is very well done, again probably due to the fact that the author was a police officer. Everything is very realistic, relations between police and the witnesses, the judiciary or some shenanigans. The plot is nervous, hard, but it is done brilliantly, knocking the cards one after the other without downtime.

Let's be brief 

I recommend this book that may be hard, but the reality was, that is nervous, but not irritating, which is historically rich, but not difficult to read. I'm glad I've discovered this author and I will read his other books with pleasure.

Good to know

This book was awarded The Point of European crime fiction in 2012.

The author has studied history, but has worked in the police ... which proves that the two are not incompatible :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment