On Twitter the other night, when I finally finished this novel, I called it the book from hell. Because it really, really was. I checked it out way back in late September because it was set in Argentina and so was perfect for my Global Challenge. I attempted to start reading it several times and always woke up an hour later, feeling groggy with a sore neck/back/etc due to wherever it was I had fallen asleep. I got about 100 pages in and abandoned it totally for over 2 months before, starting to panic on Saturday because the challenge is finishing soon. So I picked it up again. My stepson was watching the cricket and the possible combination, or maybe just this book made me fall asleep again. Then on the Tuesday after that, I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I. Was. Going. To. Finish. This Book!
And I did. But ugh. Was it ever a struggle. I would’ve abandoned it long ago if I didn’t need it to qualify for my South American component! It was too late for me to start hunting around for another book, so I had to get it finished. The gist of the book is sort of this:
In a wealthy gated community somewhere outside Buenos Aires, Argentina (I no longer care enough to go back and look up exactly where), houses are large and perfect. Men are wealthy and play golf and tennis. Women are well groomed and leave the cooking, cleaning and the raising of children to maids and nannies. Four men of the community get together every Thursday night to play cards, to drink, chat, smoke cigars, whatever it is that wealthy, important men do in their down time. Their wives, abandoned on these Thursday nights, are nicknamed the ‘Thursday Night Widows’. That’s sort of ominous, isn’t it? And it’s about to get a whole lot more so as the nickname goes from figurative to literal.
Teresa Scaglia, wife of the ‘ringleader’ of the Thursday night men, returns home from her Thursday night exile to a dark and quiet house. This is unusual, as usually her husband and his friends would still be up drinking and talking. She has seen the friend’s SUV’s in the driveway but she can see no sign of them. She goes to bed and wakes during the night, realising her husband still isn’t home. Unfortunately for her, and two of the other wives, their husbands are lying dead at the bottom of the Scaglia swimming pool. One of the husbands avoided this fate, by leaving the Thursday night gathering early – of his own accord for some reason, due to illness or something, or because of a fight with El Tano, the head honcho.
All of this happens in the first two dozen pages or so and then the novel goes back in time (mostly I think) to talk about The Cascades and how they all came to move there, and the people that have come and gone and a whole bunch of other stuff that is really rather irrelevant other than info dump and painting a picture of wealth and privilege, which I got already from the whole gated community thing. The point of view switches back and forth which confused me a lot and I had a lot of trouble keeping track who was who and who was married to who and whose kids these were, etc. The bulk of the story is told through the eyes of Virginia Guevera, who runs a real estate agency in the Cascades and knows everything there is to know about the residents. She’s also the wife of the husband that made it out alive that fateful Thursday night but it switches to third person every now and then so that we can check in with other wives and occasionally, their kids, to see what’s happening from their perspective. I don’t know if it’s the translation, or the way it’s written, or just me, but I didn’t not enjoy this choice of narrative. Having to skip back 5-10 pages and try and match up the pairs of marrieds together in my mind every so often was not conducive to a smooth read.
The time change didn’t work for me either. Opening up almost with three dead people in a pool….and then going back in time for about 200+ pages was not exciting. I wanted to find out how they died and why. I didn’t care that one of the wives drank, or one of them liked painting pictures or one of them was beaten up by her husband or that one adopted a daughter and then didn’t get on with her. None of that was interesting to me. What was interesting to me was how those three powerful men came to be dead in a pool, how the fourth one escaped – did he kill them? Is that why he was the only one that got out alive? If not, who did kill them? Would they be coming back for him? That was what I wanted to know and I did indeed get to know all of that in the last 20 or so pages of the novel in what has to be the quickest wrapping up of a plotline in a novel ever. It basically went ‘oh those dead guys in a pool that you thought died that way? They actually died this way, thought you should know, the end’. Ugh! So frustrating! Where was the mystery? The suspense? There was none! What is this novel? I don’t even know how to classify it. The library doesn’t either because it’s just chucked in general paperback stacks. I thought it would sort of be a crime novel but the crime is only mentioned in, and focused on for about 5% of the actual novel, so I guess not.
This I’m afraid, really is the book from hell.
2/10 If ever I suffer from insomnia, I will re-borrow this novel.
Book #111 of 2010
This book completes my South American component of the Global Challenge of 2010.
The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa: #1: A Change In Altitude, by Anita Shreve. Set in Kenya. #2 Tea Time For The Traditionally Built,by Alexander McCall Smith. Set in Botswana.
Asia: #1: The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in Persia/Iran. #2 February Flowers, by Fan Wu. Set in China.
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia. #2 The Denniston Rose, by Jenny Pattrick. Set in Denniston, New Zealand.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland. #2 Silent on the Moor, by Deanna Raybourn. Set in England.
North America (incl Central America): #1 Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. Set in Toronto, Canada.
South America #1 Dying Gasp, by Leighon Gage. Set in Brazil. #2 Thursday Night Widows, by Claudia Pineiro. Set in Argentina.
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.
One book left to read, one set in North America and then I’m done! 🙂