Garden by the Sea

Mercè Rodoreda, trans. from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent. Open Letter, $15.95 trade paper (230p) ISBN 978-1-948830-08-9
This meditative and melancholy novel from Rodoreda (1908–1983), author of War, So Much War, takes place over six summers in the 1920s in the cloistered world of a seaside villa outside Barcelona. The unnamed narrator is the villa’s gardener who has been kept on for years, before and up to its current owners, Senyoret Francesc and Senyoreta Rosamaria. The gardener, a widower, gossips with the cook, buys wallpaper for the villa, and stresses about his plants, all while watching the goings-on at the house. The villa’s owners ride horses, go swimming, play chess, and their friends regularly come and go; one brings a lion from Africa, and the gardener forms a bond with the animal. When the wealthy Senyor Bellom builds a house next door, the story shifts toward a third-act tragedy. There is love and death—which sets up some touching scenes near the story’s end—but they’re related by the Nick Carrawayesque gardener at such a distance that they never threaten to disrupt the villa’s routine. Though the laid-back narrative’s lack of stakes may make some readers fidgety, others will revel in the easy, unhurried passage of years and light intrigues at the villa. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/08/2019
Release date: 02/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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