Daily Archives: August 18, 2012

Book Review: The Frost on his Shoulders by Lorenzo Mediano

Title: The Frost on his Shoulders
Author: Lorenzo Mediano
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1-60945-072-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 137
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A small mountain village of Biescas de Obago, at the foot of the Pyrenees. The people of the village, living their lives, following their own customs and traditions. This is shortly before the Spanish Civil War. A love story that should not have taken place. A teacher, who is an outsider, sets to tell the truth of what happened at that time. That forms the basis of, “The Frost on his Shoulders” by Lorenzo Mediano.

The reason I started with the plot and that too in a rather unusual manner is because the writing is different and highly satisfying. Back to the plot: The plot starts with the villagers chancing upon an article written by the school teacher, dredging up old history and besmirching the name of the town. The villagers are infuriated. They want the teacher to take back what he has written. The question remains: What did he write? He retracts the article, apologizes and goes on to document of what really happened – the love story of a young shepherd boy, Ramon and his wealthy beloved, Alba.

The story is narrated by the teacher. The restriction imposed on the lovers is not because of any animosity between the families. It is basically to ensure that the social construct of the village is not broken. Here at some point, I also began to draw similarities to 1984 by Orwell, only because of how individualism was broken and not willed to grow.

I liked the teacher’s voice, as he was the outsider and Mediano has ensured that he has the tact and honesty while narrating the story. Another thing which struck me was that the book is tagged as a work of “ecofiction”, which essentially means putting the environment and surrounding above the plot or on par with the plot. Ramon’s rebelling against society for instance is clearly explained and supported by nature.

Lorenzo Mediano’s writing is clear and shines throughout the book. The societal constraints as expressed and what the lovers will do to not be a part of it is written with such great subjectivity, that the reader cannot help but get further embroiled in the story. The story is about landowners (Alba’s side) and workers (Ramon’s side), who agree that things should be the way they are and no one should be allowed to cross boundaries.

“The Frost on his Shoulders” is definitely one of the best reads for me of 2012. Concise and touches on almost every aspect of life. A must read if you want to experience a different kind of writing.

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Books and Waiting

There are times I could drown myself in books and would not mind it all. I do not crave for the company of people anymore. They somehow do not matter in the larger scheme of things. Books on the other hand do. Books have been there always. Since consciousness kicked in, or I should say awareness of what books could do to my life. Change it beyond belief.

It is not that I do not like meeting people. I do. All the time. But most make me wait and it is then that I thank my better judgment for carrying that book along with me. I then do not care about waiting. People can then make me wait all they want. I have a book to read. That then happens more so. It is like the universe wants it to happen. Anyway, people then become boring after fifteen minutes into the conversation. Books do not.

The great thing about a book is that it can be read anywhere. At a bus-stop. At a railway platform. Outside a café and inside a café. When waiting for your turn at a job interview, where you are invariably waiting without any sense of time, since but of course the corporate folk could not care. But not to worry. You have a book towed with you.

I also read while waiting for something boring to end. Like a wedding reception. Oh yes I have done that as well! I remember the first time I did it, I was yelled at by my parents. I was thirteen. By the time I turned eighteen, they could not do much.

I don’t understand why people feel bad when I am travelling with them and I decide to read. So big deal, isn’t it? They can listen to music if they want to or read as well. Why the need to indulge in chatter all the time?

On the other hand, dates that ditch you deserve a nasty message and then I quietly remove the “book of the day/week” from my bag and that incident is long-forgotten. Books also make you wait. The ones that are yet to be released. You count days. You wait. Sometimes patiently and sometimes not so patiently. But there is no other choice. I remember waiting for Murakami’s latest like no other book. I am sure people would empathize with me because they have also waited for most books – especially after the Potter series. I wait for the postman/courier guy almost every single day. In anticipation of the books that will come by through post and they do. Sometimes one and sometimes in bulk. Always ensuring to exact a smile on my face.

I have also waited with same eagerness for the books reserved at the library. For the one phone call to let me know that they are now available to be borrowed. I do not mind waiting for people to turn up now. It does not matter. I used to fret earlier. Not anymore. There is always this knowledge that I can read and nothing to beat that. Ever.