All Time Favorites #10 – The Sound of Things Falling

all time favorites

As some of you know, I used to have a blog that I deleted without thinking it through because… Well, because my ADHD brain takes this kind of frustrating decisions sometimes?

Note to self: don’t you ever do that again

As a result, all my absolute favorites don’t appear on this new blog, and that just won’t do. That’s why I’ve decided to create this new feature in which I’ll get to introduce the books that forged me as a reader, one Saturday at a time. Who knows, perhaps you’ll love them too?

For a book to be featured:

  • Its rating must be either a 5 or (more rarely) a 4.5 ;
  • I must have read it at least one year ago ;
  • Its review mustn’t have been posted already on this blog.

This week I’m sharing a translated novel I read in February, 2017.

Content Warnings >>>

Drugs, graphic violence, death ; One scene contains cruelty towards an animal.

Ha, damn. Who knew it’d take such a quiet and introspective novel to break my heart.

I’m sorry because my fangirling probably won’t help, but I found Juan Gabriel Vásquez‘s storytelling just wonderful. As often when I fall in love with a book – especially when none of my friends have read it, I’ve been feeling a little self-conscious and read a few reviews with low ratings. I… don’t advise doing that, lol. In the end, I’m not able to acknowledge the flaws pointed there – too much telling rather than showing? – because I just did not see that. Shrugs.

My experience with The Sound of Things Falling was :
– opened the book
– started reading
– couldn’t stop because really, how could I?!

It takes a great author to lift us out of our every day scenery and make us feel like we’re there without smashing us under the weight of too heavy descriptions. In that aspect it was perfect – anecdotes, customs, I was soon absorbed in this Bogotá and was involved in the characters’ story almost instantly. I couldn’t stop reading – even exhausted, I couldn’t put it down, even at 4 in the morning, I had to know, to devour it.

My heart in my throat, and the worry, the worry – the passion – brought me to this – albeit quite ridiculous, but not less valid at the time – epiphany when I wanted to yell that THIS WAS WHY I WANTED TO READ BOOKS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD (I did not. It was 4 in the morning. I am not an animal) My lassitude with US settings has never been so clear than then, when I wanted nothing more than learn again and again about another country, another history, even fictionalized.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez‘s talent for weaving the threads of his characters’ lives – and attach the reader in the process – forcefully doomed me to care for his characters, no matter how great my disagreement with their actions could be – and disagree I did. That’s okay. I quickly understood the role I was meant to take : I wasn’t there to love them, I was there to slowly unpack their memories and maybe, maybe, above the solitude and nostalgia, find a little place in myself for them.

Spoiler alert : I did.

Antonio, Elaine, Ricardo – every one of these characters is flawed and unlikeable at times. I can see how their behavior could alienate some readers but in all honesty I understood them, especially Ricardo whose smile I’d protect with my life (MY HEART). As for the plot, I genuinely think that we should go without knowing too much – as I did – that’s why I won’t develop it. I didn’t even read the blurb, only picked it because it was part of my translated books list, and I could not recommend doing the same strongly enough.

I’d recommend this novel to every reader who loves family sagas whose secrets, no matter how trivial, shape the characters into these real people we care about. The Sound of Things Falling is not some action-packed journey getting us from point A to point B : this is rather a very character driven novel, a fucking train wreck where solitude and nostalgia pour through every page and I am not okay.

Not a perfect book by any means – Elaine’s Americanism sure annoyed me a lot, for one – yet if you know me, then you’re well aware that I can overtake a few flaws if I am certain – as much one can be certain of anything, that goes without saying – that the book I just closed will linger. Well I believe that I won’t forget The Sound of Things Falling anytime soon. Oh, no.

This review has been written on February 14, 2017.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.

Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.

*Winner of the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award

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