The Songs of Manolo Escobar by Carlos Alba
|The Songs of Manolo Escobar by Carlos Alba|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Genuine, appealing characters in an emotional, compelling story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: March 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Antonio is the second-born son to Spanish parents, living in Glasgow. He's embarrassed to be anything other than Scottish, and he tries everything to hide his family background from friends at school, refusing to speak Spanish with his parents and struggling to forge his own identity in life. In his middle age, he suddenly finds his life falling apart around him as his marriage begins to fail and his increasingly frail father becomes obsessed with the proper burial of his parents back in Spain. Antonio continues to play a rather emotionally distant part in his parents' lives, but then finds himself drawn further and further into the truth about his father's past which, ultimately, leads him to question his own past and the path his future might take.
I really enjoyed this book, which is very gently written - no fancy tricks or verbose language - just genuine, appealing characters in an emotional, compelling story. It's a story of discovery as we see Antonio discover many truths through the book - about his life, his marriage, his family and most especially his father and his father's family history.
Antonio's father is a very difficult character, yet he's deftly drawn by the author. The struggling relationship between Antonio and his proud dad rings very true and I found it very moving to read. There are funny moments within the story, as well as moments or real sadness, but I didn't feel at all manipulated as I read, just simply carried along by the emotions of the characters.
There are lots of time-shifts within the book as we switch between Antonio's childhood, his later life and his teenage years. I sometimes find this sort of narrative device annoying and disruptive but here it worked very well, maintaining the pace of the story and keeping my interest piqued as more and more about Antonio and his family history is revealed. It's deftly handled, with no clumsy transitions, and gave the story a page-turner feel, but not in a trashy novel kind of way!
This is a lovely book, definitely well worth a read.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
You may find this story raises your interest in the Spanish Civil War, in which case look no further than Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.