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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 68 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 (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Not only is it great to read by yourself, it is a wonderful book to read aloud. On a three hour automobile trip, the passage went very fast as I read this book to my husband and we both ate it up. It was a delight to both of us.

The stories all have two links. They are all entitled 'News From Spain' and consist of either very serious news occurring during the story or very funny news: think Saturday Night Live appearing in the story. They are also linked by love. Every story is a love story, either happy or sad, but a love story nonetheless.

My favorite story was the last one, about unnamed people. The man is either 'A' or 'a doctor' and the woman is either a 'well-known journalist' or 'the most famous woman in the world'. I could not help but think of Eleanor Roosevelt as the story went back and forth in time from contemporary events to the 1940's and 50's and the relationship 'the famous woman' had with her doctor and his wife.

There are stories of older women yearning for younger men, older women yearning for men their age, young women first finding the feelings of romance and lust, dependent love and independent love.

The first story is about a couple in their mid-forties and upper middle-class. The story is sensitively told of how they go through a rough period in their 26-year marriage. They go to an engagement party for people they've known more than half their lives. This party is an occasion for some poignant recollections. It is very well-crafted and there is not a word out of place.

In the second story, Rebecca and her mother, Harriet, have a very unusual relationship - at times very individuated and at other times quite enmeshed. Rebecca and Harriet are very different from one another.
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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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