Valerie Martin Reviews The Wrong Blood
Valerie Martin is the author of Property, Mary Reilly, and Trespass. Read her review of The Wrong Blood:
During the Spanish Civil War, a poor servant girl is raped by a passing soldier. In a nearby town, a wealthy young woman marries a soldier and departs for her honeymoon at Biarritz. Time will bring these women together in a fine house by the sea and war will present them with the necessity for a dark bargain, one that will alter the lives of future generations.
I’ve rarely read a novel as arresting as The Wrong Blood. It casts a spell with the first sentence, and if you’re willing to surrender, both the story and the voice will haunt you well after the novel is over. The world of the characters, both during and after the war, is fluidly drawn, quick and subtle; like a fine watercolorist, Manuel De Lope floods every page with pigment, light, detail. The atmosphere is mysterious and erotic, yet permeated with sadness.
What I find most extraordinary about The Wrong Blood is the narrative omniscience. Novels narrated by a voice that sees into the heart of every character are not unusual, but Manuel De Lope’s narrator sees into the heart of time. What has happened, what will happen, and what is happening right now are all revealed in the course of a sentence. Time, the destroyer of all, is the ultimate subject of this mellifluous novel.
These comments may make The Wrong Blood sound like an exercise in style, but it’s also rich in wonderful, sympathetic characters who perplex and care for each other. The plot is spun out like a gold thread through every scene, and the conclusion will send a shiver down your spine. Do not skip ahead and read the end. To enjoy the power of the concluding pages, the reader needs to know everything that comes before. This is a book to be savored, and it will appeal to anyone in search of something beautiful to read.
From Publishers Weekly
This frustrating Spanish Civil War saga, the author's first to appear in English, has neither the pulse nor the plot to sustain itself over the course of its slow, laborious, and anticlimactic denouement. Doctor Félix Castro, a lonely, endearing cripple, has been observing his neighbors for years and eagerly strikes up a conversation when a young lawyer, Miguel Goitia, comes to stay in the villa of Las Cruces, which his grandmother has mysteriously bequeathed to her miserly maid, María Antonia. Premonitions, superstitions, and otherworldly manifestations guide or thwart the characters on their respective quests, while their profound motivations remain cryptic. The novel, which sashays between stilted exchanges involving Doctor Castro and the bland Goitia, and sometimes harried wartime recollections, manages some highly evocative descriptions of the Basque countryside and a number of astute characterizations. Unfortunately, the narrative suffers from a ceaseless supply of ponderous asides and a cumbersome translation that prefers a rigid fidelity to the original text over a smooth reading experience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.