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La sangre ajena In the Basue Country in northern Spain just before the Civil War three men in dinner suits stop for a drink at a bar before continuing on their way to a wedding Their trip is interrupted when their leader the wealthy Don Leopoldo has a stroke in the restroomThis event bizarre and undignified though it is begins to weave together the lives of two remarkable women the bride the beautiful and distinguished Isabel Cruces and Mara Antonia Etxarri the bar owner's adolescent daughter Shortly after the outbreak of the war Mara Antonia is raped and Isabel's newlywed husband Captain Julen Herraiz is shot Both women find themselves violently altered alone and pregnant A crippled but wise local doctor is the only witness to the mysterious silent agreement these women conclude in the loneliness and desperation of their mutual suffering Many years later a young student grandson to Isabel returns to the scene of the events to spend an innocent summer studying for law exams As he goes about his work he unwittingly awakens the ghosts haunting both Mara Antonia and the doctor and through their memories the passionate stories of the past unfurl before the reader De Lope brilliantly reveals his incredible story through flashes of memory and emotion told in a winding torrent that expresses the cumulative nature of both history and nostalgia


10 thoughts on “La sangre ajena

  1. Michelle Michelle says:

    The Wrong Blood is one of those novels I really wanted to love but left me feeling flat Several days after finishing the story I am not uite certain what Mr de Lope was trying to accomplish Was he trying to tell a story about the impact of the Civil War or was it a study of humankind and their reactions to adverse conditions? I suspect the answer is both things but the fact that I am not 100 percent certain about it leads me to conclude that he was not successful with whatever he was attemptingThe narrator is obviously a man and unfortunately this is not a novel where a male author writes female characters that are true to life Considering that the story revolves around María and her struggles this is a glaring conflict This is particularly true of the rape scene which avoids any discussion of the emotional trauma and approaches the entire scenario rather clinically and coldly Throughout the novel María is never truly fleshed out as a woman but remains this chilly miserly one dimensional character who is concerned about counting place settings than about others' feelings I suspect that in the right hands María could truly have come to life which would have made the flashbacks and other parts of the story come to life as wellConsidering how much of the novel revolves around the characters Dr Cortez and the grandson Goitia Isabel and María the fact that they remain stilted and lacking in emotional connection does nothing to recommend the story The big reveal is uite predictable and the entire story plays out as one expects A character driven novel only works when readers are able to take a vested interest in the characters Unfortunately the reader is not able to connect with any of the characters in this fashionThe Wrong Blood redeems itself via its descriptions of the Basue countryside Lyrical in their sweeping grandeur and beauty this is where Mr de Lope shines The reader truly gets a sense of what the Civil War did to the inhabitants of the area how confusing and treacherous it was for all involved and the scars it left on both people and locationsAs this is Mr de Lope's first novel translated into English one cannot help but wonder how much is uite literally lost in translation Then again because the physical descriptions are so excellent this leads one to conclude that very little is actually lost Therefore is this an instance of an author who is better able to provide poetic descriptions of places but cannot do the same for people? Without reading Mr de Lope's other works one may never know I do know that The Wrong Blood has moments of brilliance but a large majority of the novel fails to spark The result is a novel that does not live up to its own expectations


  2. Nancy Oakes Nancy Oakes says:

    The Wrong Blood is the story of two women of different classes in Spain's Basue country Maria Antonia Etxarri the young daughter of a local innkeeper and Isabel Cruces Hernandez who comes from a family of wealth and influence During the Spanish Civil War 1936 1939 their individual tragedies unexpectedly bring and then bind them together for the rest of their lives Isabel falls in love with and marries an army captain who is killed shortly afterwards leaving behind not only Isabel but her unborn child Maria Antonia only a teenager is raped when a group of soldiers take shelter at her father's inn The local doctor Felix Castro is the central figure connecting them both In the present Miguel Goitia law student and Isabel's grandson is spending time at his grandmother's estate which now belongs to Maria Antonia a sanctuary of peace and uiet while he is preparing for his bar exam His very presence there brings out memories of old wartime secrets that Miguel is not privy to and Castro is torn between telling him the truth about things or letting old memories lie dormant It is also a story about loss grief the nature of class distinction and as Dave Boling author of Guernica and one of the blurbers wrote about human survival at desperate timesIn terms of the writing the direction of the plotline is a bit obvious once you begin reading but that hardly matters in the long run I only rarely find an author whose prose is so elouent that I want to read the book again just to appreciate its beauty And considering this is a translated version well I can only imagine how absolutely wonderful it must be in the original Spanish The story is paced very well; it starts a bit slow setting the overall tone immediately while allowing the reader to absorb and appreciate small details that might otherwise be overlooked The sense of time and place is evoked largely through the use of flashbacks which take the reader seamlessly and skillfully through the hardships of war into the present and back again without causing any interruption to the overall flow of the story It is a book that will you find difficult to put down until the very endI recommend this novel to people who enjoy Spanish novels in translation and who truly appreciate the beauty of the written word It's definitely not a book for those who want something uick and easy nor is it an action packed novel that once you've read you'll forget like so much fiction that's out there on bookstore shelves at the moment It's a book to be enjoyed slowly and kept on your shelf to visit again some day


  3. Kara Kara says:

    This is really a 15 rating but I can't in good conscience give it the same number of stars that I have 50 Shades of Grey so whatevsThere's no doubt that this is a beautifully written book Full of poignant observations about life and such Definitely flowery and could haveshould have been toned down A lotBut there's an obvious problem with this book there's no conflict Nothing actually happens The book tells the story of two women whose lives were drastically and irrevocably impacted during the Spanish Civil War That sentence while factually true makes the book sound far interesting than it ever was In reality the book meanders through flowery language until you've forgotten who you're reading about and by the time the author lets you know that something has occurred or is about to occur you've long stopped caring because you were reading purple prose instead of character developmentThis review sounds harsh and I don't intend for it to be but the book definitely misses a crucial element of what makes a story a story ya know? I'm fully willing to concede that the art of storytelling is different in Spain this is a Spanish book translated for us folks across the pond but that didn't make me enjoy it any


  4. Lydia Presley Lydia Presley says:

    When I started to read this book I was worried that I'd tackled it too soon after reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver The Wrong Blood was also a steak of a book and Manuel de Lope created a beautifully written story that translated incredibly wellThe story centers are three main people Maria Antonia Etxarri the daughter of a former innkeeper from a nearby town; Dr Felix Castro a young crippled doctor; and Isabel Cruces Herraiz the bride and later widow of a young officer all living in the village of HondarribiaMiguel Goitia a young notary student law arrives and stays at his grandmother's inn and with his arrival all three characters are pulled in to the story with a common bondLike I mentioned previously the writing is truly a beautiful thing The story although confusing as the players are set in place everything is put into place with a precision that took my breath awayThere were a few aspects of the book that disappointed me I was able to see through some of the plot advancements but overall a worthwhile read and another book to put on my favorites of translated literature


  5. Gretchen Rings Gretchen Rings says:

    The Wrong Blood opens in a small Basue village at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War alternating between 1930s Spain to present This is the first book of de Lope's to be translated into English and I am eager to read Literary and exuisite


  6. Katie Katie says:

    It was my great pleasure to work on this stunning book The key is to surrender to the prose wade into the descriptions and let the story unfold in its slow magnificent way


  7. Jill Meyer Jill Meyer says:

    The Wrong Blood is a beautifully written and translated novel by Spanish author Manuel de Lope Set in both the dark days of the Spanish Civil War and in current day Spain the story slowly rolls out of two women both greatly affected by the war and the aftermath A wealthy young bride who loses her husband in the war and a lowly born servant Isabel and Maria Antonia live a life together with the daughter of one of the women The grandson who comes to live with the women in the present hears of the women from an old doctor who has been their neighbor for seventy or so yearsBlood is slowly paced The beautiful language rolls out and as long as the reader is not expecting much in the way of a plot the book is a gem


  8. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    This book was just okay I figured out what the entire secret was very early on and I felt the pacing to be excruciatingly slow I don't know if this was something that was because of the translation or if it was just the nature of the plot The setting and character building was well done and very melancholic and dreamy which kept me just interested enough to see how it would play out A very meditative piece on the passage of time how the past can haunt you and the secrets people keep; both from themselves and each other


  9. Holly Holly says:

    There isn't really much of a plot but the plot that is there plays out exactly how you think it will Except there is no real explanation of the arrangement between Maria and Isabel It's readable but not what I would call gripping or compelling


  10. Stephen Stephen says:

    Manuel de Lope's The Wrong Blood is tough to review without giving up the ghost literallyIt is the story of three people bound by a series of shared spawned by the Fascists deathly advance through the Basue Country during the Spanish Civil War Situated for a few passages at the front the novel mostly broods in the enclosed worlds of two houses on the coast Los Sauces and Las Cruces In one of them live two victims of the conflict in the other a lame doctor whose affliction allows him to escape the generalized carnage yet still be affected by its perversionsThe young lawyer Goitia looking for a place to study returns to his childhood home at Las Cruces whic his deceased mother has left to her life long house servant Maria AntoniaThe biggest secret is revealed to the reader at the three uarter mark though not necessarily to the young lawyer But his rare visit coupled with the advancing age of the doctor and the house servant provide a last chance to rewrite a small history and the tension to keep from or unleash upon him the truths they know form the crux of the conflict Between them De Lope notes the doctor and the old woman could awaken the inexistent memory of young Goitia assuming that young Goitia had any interest in the stories the old woman and the doctor could tell himThe path toward that resolution is dominated by an unnamed narrator with no dog in the fight being covered The action and exchanges between principal characters are employed to sparing effect Most of the narrative progress is unspoken but latent in the air each character is sharing; air rife with narrator's presentiments and ornate musings The Wrong Blood is mostly back story the young man's arrival provoking the powerful flood of memories that had overflowed the sluice gatesIt is a running commentary on what the trio have endured what they are thinking at any given moment in the history; a history not presented chronologically rather leapfrogging back and forth along the line of time The author's focus is trained mostly on ambience on environment on the oppressive realities that precede each character's birth There are not very many choices available to these people and still less offering a dignified pathThe liner notes for this Other Press addition uote Gabriel Garcia Maruez deeming De Lope's work a celebration of our language Since that language is Spanish the consumer of the English language effort must take the master at his word Or at least the word of translator John Cullen who teases a wide vocabulary a rich thicket of words and somber palette out of whatever De Lope intended In the opening passages the author depicts the roses of 1936 to be plump as wet nurses breast Later in a passage characteristic of than exception to The Wrong Blood De Lope writes that The curtains of rain in the distant dull gray clouds bursting over the sea filled her with nostalgia because for her the weeping of the heavens was the ultimate poetical sensation and nothing compared with the lyrical emotions of abandonment and dispossession that the rain promised'In this fashion does the omnipresent narrator mostly hold forth on details and objects surrounding giving them prior lives symbolic charges; casting them as witnesses to both a tragedy and a forced permutation in an otherwise natural order by class and the war's outcome These can be historical details the product of fine research such as the strange straw wraps used in those days to cover champagne bottles with a kind of cape or hood that protected the glass or much broader and social in aspect Describing how the ill fated Captain Herraiz and his bride Isabel made it work the writer observes It was said that certain in those years were happy cautious and dissolute and those terms included everything that a judicious and seductive mixture of good breeding and carnality entailedIf this novel is back story it is also a tale of the rearguard of noncombatants flailing about in a great and sudden disruption Del Lope conjures it as a place no less harrowing than the front For than power and money the meaning of each being upended by the times it is the war which forces the hope killing obligation to compromise one highest aspirations The doctor by way of example settles for the peace of the weak and the just and it granted him the tranuility of opening the gate and limping back to his house to pour himself of cognac There was no sadder peace than that


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