Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Farm by Hector Abad (translated fiction), Archipelago Books

This book is well-written, with two scenes of suspense that are downright frightening in their telling so much I held my breath. Horrifyingly suspenseful and not easily forgotten.  But the book has issues.

For one thing, The Farm is a sort of utopian- planned community in Columbia, passed down for generations and yet every year something is taken away (land). As this begins, the matriarch (not a spoiler) has passed away and it remains to three siblings to decide what to do with it.

Here's my issue, with it and many novels, everyone is filthy rich. No one has any need to consider expenses of any sort, and the lavish lifestyles belie the fact that the Farm may need to be sold. One wants to tell them to tighten their belt a bit! Given the Columbian violence that pervades the novel, it's hard to understand the endless remodeling, refurnishing, and lavish excess the Farm enjoys.

Each sibling has a crisis of sorts. They are all interesting but not to each other. We see them in first person view as they describe their feelings and beliefs, and then in the way they are described by each other. It's fascinating to see how they perceive their strengths and then how their siblings think of those very strengths as weaknesses.  In between these first person chapters are expository chapters on Columbian violence and the history of the region (a bit snoozy here).

I liked it in all, but parts of it were tiresome. The brother is an idealist who romanticizes all things to the point of writing fables, and one sister is terribly naive as she throws money around. They aren't people you'd want to hang out with. But again, suspending disbelief and imagining this as a real family, one can't help but see how it could play out.

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean.

Review by L.R.

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