ARC REVIEW: The Passion According To Carmela – by Marcos Aguinis

Title: The Passion According To Carmela
Author: Marcos Aguinis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2008
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: October 7th 2018
Pages: 284
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘La pasión según Carmela’)

“At the root of any insanity you’re bound to find great truths.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I know I should probably have read this one in Spanish, but since it takes me twice as long to read it and I had the opportunity to read this newly published English translation, I decided to be lazy. I was fascinated by the premise of The Passion According To Carmela as soon as I first started reading it. While I learned a few things about the Cuban Revolution during Uni, most of the history was skimmed over and I was looking forward to learn more about that particular part of Cuban history. The promise of a love story mixed in with a proper look inside the Cuban Revolution just sounded too good to be true, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. The translation was excellently done and the writing style really flowed. The descriptions both of the Cuban setting and the background information around the Revolution and its consequences for the locals are exhaustive and very thorough. The Passion According To Carmela not only introduces us to the main character and their tragic and complicated love history, but also teaches you about how Fidel Castro came to power and how this effected the country. The prose is easy to on the eye, draws you in and makes it really easy to invest your time in this story. The pace was a bit slow at points, but overall The Passion According To Carmela was a really satisfying read.

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Cuba is on the border of a Revolution, and the country isn’t alone in facing some drastic changes. Carmela Vasconcelos has been living a privileged life so far, but her idealistic ideas and her brother Lucas end up convincing her to join Fidel Castro’s rebels. There she meets the Argentinian socialist Ignacio Deheza, and they are both aware of the instant connection between them. Their passion for both each other and the cause blind them, and they soon discover passion alone might just not be enough… Is the Revolution really everything they thought it would promised to be?

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The Passion According To Carmela is perfect for both historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a good complicated love story. You will come out both exhausted by everything that happens to the main character and having learned more about the Cuban Revolutions and its effects on the locals. Well written, well translation, well executed… It reads a bit slow at points, but the story is without doubt still 100% worth reading.


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BOOK REVIEW: Bestiario – by Julio Cortázar

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Title: Bestiario
Author: Julio Cortázar
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism, Short Stories
First published: 1951
Finished reading: February 29th 2016
Pages: 144
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“Las costumbres, Andrée, son formas concretas del ritmo, son la cuota del ritmo que nos ayuda a vivir. No era tan terrible vomitar conejitos una vez que se había entrado en el ciclo invariable, en el método.”

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I have been wanting to start reading in Spanish again for ages and it seemed more than fitting to pick an author who comes from the same country I now call my home: Argentina. I have read short stories by Julio Cortázar in the past, especially during my years at the University, but I can’t remember having read the full Bestiario bundle. Like in the other stories I know, Julio Cortázar was without doubt an expert in the use of magical realism. The way he was able to combine ordinary things and situations with magical realism elements is what makes his stories so special and I really enjoyed reading them. I do have to say that some stories were better than others; especially Lejana didn’t really manage to convince me. Still, this is without doubt a very interesting read and it felt good to read in Spanish again.

I’m doing this review slightly different since there are eight different short stories included in this bundle. Below a short description and my thoughts on each of them.

Casa Tomada

In this story a brother and a sister are living in a big and old house in Buenos Aires. It starts as a description of their everyday life; then slowly that same house is being taken over by a ‘stranger’. You never get to find out who it was or why they don’t try to fight it, and that is part of the charm of this short story.

Carta A Una Señorita En Paris

This story is the perfect example of Julio Cortázar’s excellent writing skills where he mixed magical realism with interesting descriptions. The main character writes a letter to the owner of the house he has been asked to take care of with a confession: somehow he regularly ‘vomits’ little rabbits and then has to hide them… It sounds absurd but it is actually a quite funny story.

Lejana

This one is without doubt my least favorite story. I normally like magical realism, but this story was too confusing to be enjoyable. It seems to be a story of a woman who writes about some kind of visions, but to be honest I’m still not completely sure what was really going on.

Ómnibus

One of my favorites of this bundle. What I love is that Julio Cortázar used ordinary things like a bus ride and changes it into a surreal story. Having lived in BA and taken the same 168 bus many times only improves the reading experience…

Cefalea

This story is a bit more fantastical than others and is actually quite interesting. The characters have to take care of fictional animals (mancuspias) but are struggling because they are suffering from really bad headaches. Slowly things are starting to go wrong and they don’t know how to fix it…

Cirse

This story made me crave chocolate! Delia makes chocolates and saw her two previous boyfriends die under suspicious circumstances. Mario prefers to ignore the odds and is determined to be her third and only living boyfriend… An interesting enough story for sure.

Las Puertas Del Cielo

This story hasn’t as many magical realism elements but is without doubt very interesting as well. One of the main characters is a husband who is struggling to coope with the death of his wife, and his friend is trying to help him. One night when they go to a milonga he thinks he sees his dead wife again… Las Puertas Del Cielo turned out to be intriguing and also has a nice reference to the whole milonga culture.

Bestiario

The last story is probably the most famous one and is also the story the bundle has been named after. I remember having to read this particular short story back in Uni and I really enjoyed reading it second time around. Magical realism at its best! The characters live in a big house and there also happens to be a tiger walking around. The movements of the characters are limited by the tiger, but they seem to be used to it… Until someone makes a mistake.