Title: The News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story
Author: Joan Wickersham
Publisher: Knopf Books
Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Short stories have an impact which probably novels do not, where I am concerned. I do not why but the short story form has so much to say and so much that is left unsaid at the same time. It is left to the reader to infer. The reader is given that doubt of sensibility which somehow to me does not come across in the novel, the way it does in a short story. Maybe that is why I like to read a short story before I sleep every night. It somehow gives me a whole new perspective on life and its issues.
When I received a review copy of, “The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story” by Joan Wickersham, I knew I would love it. Even before reading the first story or any story for that matter. I knew that for two reasons. First because of the way this collection is written – seven different stories and variations on almost one single theme – “The News from Spain” and second because I had read an excerpt in a magazine earlier, which almost moved me to tears.
The book according to me is one of a kind. Not because the idea has not been explored before, but because of the writing. There were so many places in the book where I could not help myself but cry. Wickersham writes with such elegance and beauty that you cannot help but mull over what you have read; maybe sometimes throughout the day. My most favourite story in the book is that of a paralyzed dancer and her relationship with her husband who is a famous choreographer. At the same time in the story, there is another track of her gay caretaker and his feelings towards his so-called partner. Out of seven stories in the book, I have loved reading six of them and would probably reread at some point.
The stories have so much insight, that at times you are left breathless. The relationship between a mother and her daughter is beautifully expressed through the daughter’s love life and career progression, while the mother is unwell at a home for the aged. The theme in the book runs through as a musical note, one that as a reader you will look forward to in the next story in terms of context and plot.
The characters are as real as you and I. Their lives are delicately laid out, so much so that the book sometimes feels like one big elaborate universe and the characters are spread across far and wide. The language is crystal-clear and evokes various emotions – bittersweet, sadness, hope, happiness and envy. I cannot forget to mention the last story in the book, which absolutely left me speechless. It is a double love-story and a meditation on the nature of love and the limits it holds within itself.
At the end of it all, the reader is left satiated and at the same time wanting more, just like Wickersham’s characters in love. Joan Wickersham as a writer knows what she does – she breathes hope into words, she moulds them to emotions and scenes and will sometimes break your heart and beautifully mend it all over again with those same words.