If you enjoy mysteries set in the art and chess worlds, you’ll enjoy The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. If you haven’t read my Initial Thoughts on this book, please take a moment to do so before continuing with this post.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this author’s elegant writing. His descriptions are so poetic and vivid. Dialog flows and reveals much about each uniquely crafted character. Yet he has woven a mystery into this sometimes shocking (to me, at least) depiction of life in Madrid in 1990 (I think that may be the timeframe of this story after reading the entire book). I have never been to Spain, so don’t really have a frame of reference for the locations mentioned in the story.
The mystery stemming from a hidden inscription on a painting called The Chess Game involves reverse playing the game depicted on the chess board. Now, I have played chess in the past but I am not a very strong player. One surprise in this ebook (borrowed via Hoopla from my local library) was the number of illustrations, specifically of the chess board and the location of the pieces being mentioned in the story. That helped me to understand the moves and decisions the players were having to make. (It also made me realize I can add some more illustrations into my own books, but that’s another story entirely!)
Each of the individual characters were distinct and memorable. Some I loved to hate, some were edgy, some were funny, and the main character, Julia, seemed like she’d make a very good friend. She’s smart, loyal, trusting until that trust is broken. Some of the characters I’d avoid in real life because you simply cannot trust them. Which ones are which, you’ll have decide for yourself.
Another interesting aspect of this author’s story is that the ending is rather open-ended. The reader is left to decide how they envision what the characters will do next. The author does provide the options they are faced with but not their final decisions. It’s left me debating, knowing the characteristics of the individuals involved, what path they’d choose. It gives the reader the power to choose the ending they’d prefer. Curious, isn’t it? Authors don’t typically hand over that power to the reader, most preferring to definitively end the story. I don’t know if this is a common technique from authors in Spain or that general region, or particular to this author. I’m also unsure whether I could pull off the same sort of ending as effectively as Pérez-Reverte has done.
One other thing I’ll mention about reading this book. I borrowed it from the library as a digital book available via Hoopla. I read it on the app on my iPad. I must confess I’d much prefer to read the actual paperback. I couldn’t resize the tiny text to something just a little bit larger so it was harder to read than an actual paperback I could hold in my hands. The iPad is also slimmer, so for me it was tiring to hold. I ended up propping the device on a small pillow to “hold” it so I didn’t have to.
So next up on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Zafon is another author from Spain, so maybe I’ll find answers to my questions above. And it’s an actual paperback, too!
Check out the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.
Until next time, happy reading!
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Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.