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Wednesday, 18 June 2014


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Carol S

Haven't read this book but I so appreciate the honesty of the review. I'm very tempted to read the novel still as not enough is available about Cuba and lots in your review intrigues me. I hope this wasn't too painful an experience, I'm glad to have read it and will probably read it again.


If you are at all intrigued Carol then I do recommend reading it, it is a very strange novel and you may very well get on with it better than I did. The painfulness of the experience was more the feeling bad about writing a review that wasn't very positive. I appreciate how hard it is to write and publish a novel; to then have to read rude remarks about it must be very upsetting.


I like the sound of this book and will be buying it, so your review had one positive consequence! Metaphor and irony are my thing and this sounds right up my street.

A lot of the reviews on blogs these days just feel like free PR to me, and I try to avoid them. I can understand that it feels awkward for you not to to have liked the book, but at least you were honest about it and explained why. I don't think it's necessary for a review to be positive, but it does need to be honest.


Oh good! I'd love to know what you make of it, Violet, I bet you'd have an interesting take on it.

I agree that reviews should always be honest. The tricky thing for most of us is that we tend to gravitate towards reading books we think we'll enjoy, and then writing about them, so that does lead to lots of positive comments. And I think that a lot of bloggers are very sensitive to authors and don't want to hurt their feelings. Also, it can be difficult not to feel under an obligation for a free book. It is just easier not to write about something one disliked. And I understand this.

This is one of the important reasons why professional critics should be existing happily alongside bloggers and will always be needed. As professionals, they should be reviewing books that they dislike or find flawed as well as those they enjoy, and writing honestly about that and about how the book works, its context etc. I know that's not always the case, but that seems to me to be their purpose.

Simon T (Stuck-in-a-Book)

A very brave review to write, Helen, and certainly eloquent about why you didn't engage with this book - which I think is far better than a non-eloquent positive review.


Thanks Simon!

(Although 'brave' might be rather too generous, the author seems to be lovely and unlikely to turn up on my doorstep with an axe.) :)


I admire your honesty - especially if the author is nice, as you say.
And I loved the old masters in your last post... Thanks so much for the link!


Thank you Martina!

You know, I will still look out for Cerqueira's books - another might suit me better. And I'm pleased that other people want to read this one. I'm also now interested in Portuguese literature generally. Have you read any? Could you recommend anything?

Carol S

Tabuchi, Antonio. Pereira Maintains.
Richard Zimler is an American resident in Porto and I read with enormous pleasure everything he writes. Several of his novels are set in Portugal.


Good for you! I often shy away from the negative, afraid of putting people off and look what happens here - already one person wants to read it because they see elements they like in your descriptions. I should trust readers and their instincts more. Honesty really is the best policy! Oh and the only Portuguese author I know of (oh apart from Jose Saramago) is Eca de Queiros. Nineteenth century, priests doing bad things, family battles, that sort of stuff, not bad at all!


I wonder how well he's been translated, Helen? Passages like the one you quote must be so easy to get 'wrong' even if you get all the words right. I know that I ought to read more in translation than I do but I am always concerned about the problems that translation can bring and the fact that I don't seem to be able to appreciate the idea of fiction in so many of the cultures I have tried.

Carol S

PS It's on order!!


Carol, thank you so much for the recommendations, I shall definitely look them up. In fact, I've been wanting to read some Tabuchi for a while - I think that Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat hosted a reading week about him a little while ago. I had forgotten he was Portuguese! I hope that you enjoy the book when it arrives; I'd love to know your opinion of it, if you have the time to return here and tell me.

litlove, thank you! Oof, Saramago, of course. I have one of his novels somewhere... And nineteenth-century naughtiness and quarrelling families sounds fun.

Alex, that is a very good point. In fact, I wouldn't have the first idea about the quality of the translation. I thought it read well, but often had a slight quality of strangeness about the syntax which translated fiction often has and which I like. I think that much of what I found difficult about this book wasn't really about the language though.

I'm always a bit wary of translated poetry because, like you, I worry about what is lost and what is changed in the process. Parallel editions are good for this though.


Well, what you write here is often my experience with Spanish literature. I try, really I do, but I've found I simply do not appreciate many famous authors because I find them tedious, or the jokes are not funny to me. I long to enjoy Bolano, for instance, but as of yet (with The Savage Detectives and 2666) no luck. It's certainly not him, but I'm not sure what it is in me...

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