Translation by Valerie Miles
Hogarth, May 2016
Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.
To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.
Apparently Milena Busquets' short novel This Too Shall Pass was quite a sensation in Europe, but it's gotten a cooler reception over here. And I think I can understand all the mixed reviews.
In the book Blanca's mother has just died; to deal with her grief, the 40-year-old "orphan" decides to return to a place she remembers fondly from her childhood. And she also decides that just about everyone she's ever met should go along. And they do. Making for lots of interesting and confusing situations.
Blanca is definitely a maddening character, imperfect (to say the least!) and self-involved — and her relationship with her mother is something any psychiatrist would probably love to get a chance at. Let's just say it was very close, prickly, and ... well, a little weird. The book is narrated in Blanca's voice, so we get her thoughts and opinions throughout. And many of her comments about her mother sound very much as if she were speaking about/to a dear friend or "significant other" rather than a parent. But then, you sort of get the distinct impression that her mother was the significant other in Blanca's life. At one point (p.75 in the ARC), while mentally addressing her absent mother, she says:
I guess you were partly aware that you were the love of my life, and no other stormy love affair would ever come close to outdoing yours.And knowing she feels that way makes her extreme feelings of loss and confusion a little easier to understand and tolerate.
But with all her problems and foibles, Blanca is also very human, funny and warm-hearted. So although I started out agreeing with the nay-sayers, I ended up enjoying the book quite a bit. Not sure I'd actually recommend it — it's probably not for everyone. But I'll be looking for more of Busquets' work in the future.
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(Full Disclosure: I received my copy of This Too Shall Pass free of charge, from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)
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● Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Books In Translation Challenge, European Challenge, 2016 Women Challenge, Women's Fiction Challenge.