Friday, 3 June 2016

De gömda rummen (Habitaciones cerradas) by Care Santos

Care Santos is a new writer to me. I read several, very good reviews on this book, so when I found it in the library, while in Sweden, I took the opportunity to borrow it.  As always, when I start a book which has got raving reviews, I am a little bit vary that I might be disappointed. You just expect too much...maybe!

The novel was a little bit difficult to get into. I started and then put it down for a few days, before starting again. Mainly because I had limited time to read it, otherwise I might have delayed it further. Once into the book though, it was difficult to put it down. At the same time I did not like so much the way it was written, although the story is fascinating. There you are - a lot of opposites. 

Violeta Lax is the grand daughter of the famous, Spanish artist Amadeo Lax. She is an art curator, living in Chicago, and a specialist on the art of her grand father. The artist left his house and art to the Catalonian state, with the wish that it should be made into a museum. Now in 2010, many years after his death, the house will be renovated and open as a museum. Violeta rushes to Barcelona to have a look at the house before the renovation starts.  

One of the famous aspects of the house is a mural painting of her grand mother, the beautiful Teresa. She left the artist and their son, for another man and was never heard of again.  When the painting is removed from the wall, a secret door, without a handle, is discovered. Inside a mummified cat and a woman, dead since long, are found.

At the same time Violeta receives a letter from an unknown woman, living at Lake Como, who asks her to visit her there. There is a hint, that they have something in common. 

Parallel to the modern story, we get to know the story of the artist, his family and life. Little by little the story evolves. Family secrets, a life style long gone, an egoistic artist who controlled the lives of the people around him, makes for fascinating reading. It is really a fantastic story. Sometimes a little bit too detailed, and all the stories might not have been necessary for the overall story. However, it gives a solid base for the characterisation and the environment in which they are living.

What I did not like so much was the way in which it was written. Mind you, it is a translation, and maybe things were lost on the way. The story goes back and forth, back and forth, and not always in chronological order. Sometimes the same past come before the present (in the flash backs) and sometimes it is repeated from different people’s point of view. It made me a little bit irritated while reading.

The big surprise though is that this book has stayed with me ever since. I loved the story and the drama of it. The stories are separate and Violeta does not know all of the things we get to know about the past. However, what she finds out along the way, makes her revise her picture of her grandfather and the life he led.  I saw somewhere that it is compared to Zafon’s books, and it has a little bit of his dreamy atmosphere in them, as well as taking place in Barcelona. A lost world of grandeur in this beautiful city. Even today visiting Barcelona, you can feel the atmosphere. 

I see that they have made a TV mini-series of the book in Spain. Would be lovely to watch!

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