The Sleeping World, a debut novel by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, takes us into the period after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco and the early years of democracy in Spain. Freed from military rule for the first time in almost four decades, the country is still subject to internal strife between those who want democracy and those who want to retain the fascist principles of the past. For the younger generations it’s an exhilarating time of illegal basement bars, bootleg punk music, uprisings and protests.
Among those experiencing the new spirit of euphoria is Mosca, a young university student. She’s smart but cynical and disillusioned, largely because of the disappearance of her brother two years earlier. She suspects he is one of thousands murdered by the regime for collaborating with militants and his body dumped in an unmarked grave. But yet she clings to the hope that one day she will see him again.
Mosca should be sitting her final exams but instead she hangs out in bars where she playacts the role of a heavy drinking punk. One night she and three other students get caught up in an act of violence which results in the death of a daylights out of a ‘facha’, (a uniformed policeman). The quartet have to make a quick escape from their hometown in the provinces. The go on the run, travelling aimlessly ending up in Madrid and then Paris, uncovering secrets about each other as they travel. For Mosca this becomes a search for her brother and the further they travel the more she believes her brother is alive.
The Sleeping World is essentially a story about loss and political and cultural rebellion. It’s meant to depict the desperation of the young in their desire for change and the dangers of the new unsettled political climate in which they have to operate. It would have worked better if the characters hadn’t been hampered by being made to utter political slogans at every opportunity or if there was deeper analysis of their motivations. It’s hard to keep interested in characters who do bizarre things like burning all their clothing when they’re forced to spend the night on a freezing, exposed mountainside – without any explanation why. Hard also to be interested in people who just seem angry all the time. I needed more light and shade, more nuanced portrayals to feel these were real people rather than ciphers.
The novel also takes ages to get into its stride. I skipped forward a few times to see if it picked up but it just descended into some hallucinatory final section. I didn’t have the interest or inclination to find out what happened and the unravel the muddle of the author’s intentions so gave up on the book well before I reached the end.
Author: The Sleeping World by Gabriel Lucille Fuentes
Published: 2016 by
Length: 292 pages
My copy: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was intended to be part of my reading for Women In Translation 2016