It’s true! After buying Julia Navarro’s bestselling monster novel Dime quién soy (Tell me who I am) on my last trip to Spain, and lugging all 1100 pages of the giant hardback across Spain and through the Pennines on my unscheduled diversion via Doncaster (blame the December snows), I have *finally* cracked it open today over a glass of wine in the spring sunshine. [N.B. wine = essential element in acquiring necessary Californian courage to take on this bicep-building project]. 1100 pages! In hardback!
Published in February 2010, Dime has stayed in Spain’s top ten of bestselling books ever since – Qué Leer‘s January bestseller list has it at no. 7 in fiction, and no. 8 overall, just edged out by Mario Conde’s autobiography Los días de gloria. It’s received lots of popular acclaim, but as I moaned just a couple of weeks ago, literary critics have been reluctant to acknowledge its success. As I noted then, given that this is a book we can be pretty sure People Are Reading in Spain, it didn’t get even a mention in an article on What People Are Reading in Spain, probably through a combination of having a female author and being (whisper it) *popular*.
Anyhoo, I’m two chapters in, and so far I’m loving it. This is the first of Navarro’s novels I’ve tried, and I’m impressed by her robust prose, her easy-on-the-ear dialogue, and her pacing. This first section is told from the point of view of Guillermo, an underemployed thirtysomething journalist – he’s stuck writing literary criticism for a low-rent online magazine (!) – whose wealthy aunt offers him an income if he’ll put his research skills to use tracking down the truth behind the family scandal. Guillermo sets off to find out what happened to his great-grandmother, who – so they say – ran off with an Argentinean sea captain, leaving behind her husband and children, and so far he’s tracked down his grandfather’s birth certificate, and managed to put a name to the scandalous great-grandmother.
So, it’s on record. The marathon is underway, and I’ll be checking in every so often with updates. Here’s my not-so-surprising prediction: I suspect that the Argentinean sea captain will turn out to be something quite different, especially given that the elopment happened around 1936 … I’m also intrigued by the fact that the naughty lady has turned out to be half Basque, half Catalan … I mean, genealogy! scandal! archives! civil war! peripheral nationalisms! – what’s not to like?