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The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 9, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best Books of 2012, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus

"Wise and courageous and often brilliant… breaks new ground in our perceptions of what a short story can be. Wonderfully imaginative and original.” – Boston Globe

“An ode to heartbreak and regret…Wickersham's gift is for capturing the habits of mind that lead even smart people to deceive themselves…her book makes you slow down and listen, and then watch for people to reveal themselves.” – New York Times Book Review

“Elegantly structured, emotionally compelling…Short stories don’t get much better than this.” – Kirkus

“Do not mistake Wickersham’s exquisitely polished prose for good manners. Although she writes with a vintage grace…she is brutal and funny too…Divine.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Virtuosic…Wickersham [takes an] emotional cannonball into every single one of her characters. The doubts and tenderness they share are ones that only the finest fiction can create.” – Oprah.com “Book of the Week”

“Wickersham makes a triumphant return to fiction…articulates subtleties of human behavior that ordinarily elude language altogether.” – Elle

“Munro's and Wickersham's books are at the top of this year's pile.” – Chicago Tribune

“So moving it will close your throat.” – Los Angeles Times

“The prose is beautiful, and you feel those characters like real people.” – Cheryl Strayed

“Wickersham…is a master of the written word and storytelling in all its forms.” – BookPage“Joan Wickersham has done it again: astonished, enchanted, and moved me…Like Alice Munro at her best.” –  Julia Glass

“Gorgeous, completely original…As soon as I finished it, I began to read it again.” – Andre Gregory

“Poignant and insightful…Wickersham is as skilled as Alice Munro in maneuvering her characters, and the reader, through time…
Highly recommended.” – Library Journal --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: Joan Wickersham’s graceful new story collection explores the failings and desires of seven different sets of people, all of whom share a sense of longing and a single title: "The News from Spain." Each tableau fills a concentrated space with rich detail: the sickening smell of popcorn, crumpled tissues and crusted paintbrushes, a white breast in green water. Wickersham crafts intelligent and vivid narratives--the only two girls in an all-boys school build a delicate friendship; a bedridden wife takes comfort in brandy and her caretaker--but she is at her best in the realm of nuance, where a cardboard box gone unopened tells you everything you need to know. Human beings in a constant quest for kinship are nothing new. But in Wickersham’s hands, their journey feels entirely worth joining, even briefly, and the outcome is anything but certain. --Mia Lipman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307958884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307958884
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joan Wickersham is the author of The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story (Knopf 2012). Her memoir The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order (Harcourt 2008) was a National Book Award Finalist. She is also the author of a novel, The Paper Anniversary.

Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Agni, Glimmer Train, The Hudson Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, and Story, and has also been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and other anthologies. She has published essays and reviews in Glamour, Yankee, The Los Angeles Times, and The International Herald Tribune; and her op-ed column appears regularly in The Boston Globe. She has read her work on National Public Radio's "On Point" and "Morning Edition." She also writes frequently about architecture, including "The Lurker," a column she created for Architecture Boston magazine.

She has received the Ploughshares Cohen Award for Best Short Story and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. She graduated from Yale with a degree in art history, and she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Her website is www.joanwickersham.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You want smooth, we got smooth. You want insight, we got insight. You want a phenomenal structure, we got a newly minted shape for you. You want engaging, deep-seated stories about love and life and loss; this book has it all. It's the complete package. When the first story ended, I was stunned at how neatly it had wrapped up, wanting to reread it again and again for its flawless craft, its smooth transport of me on its river of insight. I was crestfallen when the sixth story ended; I had been swept away and was loving being in its capture. A must read for students of life and writing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Seven Variations on a Love Story" is the subtitle of this wonderful collection of quietly wise stories. All have the same title, "The News From Spain," but this is really no more than a tag line that comes in somewhere in each story, with a different context and meaning. Wickersham's connections are far subtler than this. "And in each of these diverging stories, all others are reflected," she quotes in an epigraph from Roberto Calasso; "all brush by us like folds of the same cloth." So variations, but what is the theme? Given the musical nature of all these stories, I would say an Enigma; the strongest connection between them is not some clever plot point, but the consistent vision of a mature writer who can take a long view of momentary passion.

Take the first story, which features two couples in their forties: one a marriage that has been going through some hard times, the other a wedding that probably should not take place. Neither situation is resolved on this day, but neither needs to be; simple understanding is gift enough. At the other end of the scale, the most complex tale follows the afterstory of two wronged women from Mozart's operas -- Rosina from The Marriage of Figaro and Elvira from Don Giovanni -- given a witty modern updating and befriending one another in later life. This is intercut with passages featuring Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's librettist, in Vienna two centuries before. This was the story that made me buy the book (I am directing Don Giovanni as I write). I am not sure that it quite works, but it nonetheless shows Wickersham's strengths: the feelings of older women, the power of unresolved relationships, and the perspective of time.

This is not the only story involving an artist from real life.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved Joan Wickersham's memoir The Suicide Index, and this is an equally original, moving, and beautifully written book. It's a suite of passionate love stories, each with the same title, "The News from Spain."

There's an underlying unity to The News from Spain. The phrase "the news from Spain" runs through the book like a musical theme; it shivers with loss and yearning. The book feels like a ballet; couples join and break apart and rejoin in new combinations. The most affecting story actually revolves around a paralyzed ballet dancer and her choreographer husband (their predicament clearly based on Tanaquil LeClercq and George Balanchine), and the dancer's abiding tie with her gay caregiver. But my favorite is a story where Wickersham has two heroines from different Mozart operas meeting in a modern-day cooking class. We then jump backwards two centuries, as Mozart's librettist Da Ponte bursts in with his own tales about love and art; and then ahead 30 years, as Don Giovanni faces one of his former conquests.

In the last story (which is both a gorgeous double love story, and a meditation on love and its limits), Wickersham writes: "A love story - your own, or anyone else's - is interior, hidden. It can never be accurately reported, only imagined. It is all dreams and invention. It's guesswork." The News from Spain is full of dreams and invention. It's full of stories that are messy, passionate, funny, awful - the kinds of love stories that we keep living and reliving.
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Format: Hardcover
Looking at her website, I see that I've been slow to come to Joan Wickersham. She's been widely published, but my first exposure is her current book, The News from Spain. On first reading, I enjoyed her writing, but didn't slow down enough to savor its true accomplishment. Nonetheless, I recognized this collection of seven stories on a theme, almost like classical music variations, was too good to give it short shrift, so I began it again when work and family havoc had slowed. Immediately, the images and language and artful structuring pulled me in. Here were stories of deceptive delicacy, containing unanticipated power. I am now unequivocally a Wickersham fan.

In simple language, with compelling details, Joan Wickersham gives voice to characters I can believe, and in this literary symphony, they are all dealing with love.

Married nearly thirty years, Susanne and John are two years into the struggle of overcoming John's night of infidelity. Barbara and Barnaby are marrying in middle age, after years of platonic courtship. Wickersham reveals much about these four old friends, and about the resonance of her entire program of stories, as she narrates their day-before-the-wedding experiences. In the end, Barnaby and Susanne take a midnight walk on the beach. Holding shells to their ears, as they sit side by side on the damp and chilly sand, they listen to that "urgent tumbling whispering roar" that Barnaby's father used to call "the news from Spain," and have again a childhood sense that if they just tried hard enough, they would be able to comprehend what they heard. Again and again, Wickersham layers meaning on "the news from Spain," as the phrase re-emerges in remarkably different stories.
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