Our August book was the well-reviewed and prize-winning novel, The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez. It was published in 2011 and translated into English in 2014. Although Vásquez was born in Colombia and is now living in Bogotá, he had written this novel while living in Europe. He stated that he did not want to write the usual romanticized book about South America, but wanted to realistically portray his country’s violent and cruel history. So this fictionalized account is about the time when the drug trade in Columbia was at its worst, affecting everyone’s lives, both directly and by association.
Antonio Yammara, a law lecturer, had been seriously wounded in a shooting which killed his billiards companion, Ricardo Laverde. Consequently, Antonio becomes depressed, which contributes to his failing marriage. He becomes obsessed with his companion’s murder, which he solves after meeting Laverde’s daughter, Maya.
The story’s structure works well and the timeline is a successful and interesting narrative device. The title is especially apt regarding plane crashes, aggressive traffic, gun shots, the crash of billiard balls and the compelling black box recording that the characters obtained.
We all commented on the author’s excellent writing, and his delightful turn of phrase, for example, ‘members of our litter’ to describe the young Colombians. Their shared experiences were not easily understood by outsiders, like Antonio’s young wife, Aura, who lacked empathy with his post-traumatic stress.
We agreed Vásquez successfully portrays Colombia’s troubled past. Claudia, who had read the book in its original Spanish, said that he writes in an easy-to-read modern version of the language sensitively. We thought the English translation depicts the idiom perfectly. Most of the members of our bookclub liked the book, a rare occurrence, and some said that they would read him again.
For more information, see review by Edmund White in the New York Times. He called this novel a ‘deep meditation of fate and death’.
Ratings: Alexa 3, Claudia 3.5, Denise 3.5, Di 2.5, Gail 3, Janet DNF, Kim 3.5, Margie 3, Nicola 3 and Penny 3.5.
We are a group that gets together once a month to discuss good books. Each of us gets to choose a book on a rotational basis, preferably one outside our personal comfort zone – we try to keep the trash to ourselves. After the discussion, we comment on other books we read that month. Most of the time we remain friends after the meeting.
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