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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Wrong Blood

Manuel de Lope

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To purchase The Wrong Blood

Title: The Wrong Blood
Author: Manuel de Lope
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 288 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Wrong Blood - US
La sangre ajena - US
The Wrong Blood - UK
The Wrong Blood - Canada
Une complicité - France
Fremdes Blut - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: La sangre ajena
  • Translated by John Cullen

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Our Assessment:

B : artfully (sometimes too much so) told, powerful parts

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 4/10/2010 Ángel Gurría Quintana
FAZ . 16/4/2004 Florian Borchmeyer
The Independent . 8/10/2010 Amanda Hopkinson
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 9/3/2004 Kersten Knipp
The NY Times Book Rev. . 31/10/2010 Andrea Thompson
Die Zeit . 25/3/2004 Jennifer Wilton

  From the Reviews:
  • "The interaction between María Antonia and Goitia is minimal and reluctant. Neither is Goitia keen to hear doctor Castro’s tales. But entire continents of reproach, guilt, self-recrimination and secrets surface in the frosty silences between the three. In the things left unsaid lies the true heart of this novel." - Ángel Gurría Quintana, Financial Times

  • "Lope verzichtet sowohl auf künstlich erzeugte Spannungseffekte und forcierte narrative Experimente als auch auf eine politische Agitation und Positionsnahme (.....) Aus der subtilen Faszinationskraft seiner Charaktere und den sich stets verdichtenden Fragen gewinnt der Roman seine Stimmigkeit und Kraft. Da es der Autor mit Hilfe einer sehr natürlichen und gelungenen Parallelmontage erreicht, sowohl die Vergangenheit als auch die Gegenwart als Handlungsstränge zu entwickeln, ist Fremdes Blut nicht einfach nur ein weiteres Erzählwerk über den Spanischen Bürgerkrieg, sondern auch eine subtile Reflexion über die Welt, die er hinterlassen hat." - Florian Borchmeyer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "In effect, the plot is secondary to the writing: high praise indeed, particularly with a work of literary translation. This novel has an oneiric tenor, focused on the interwoven lives of two women and their two daughters, as seen through the eyes of their neighbour, Dr Castro." - Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent

  • "This absorbing novel -- the first from the distinguished Spanish author to be translated into English -- is full of mild sensations. (...) (D)e Lope’s languid sentences, artfully translated by John Cullen, continue to unfurl, and you find yourself sinking back into the narrative as if it were quicksand. (...) De Lope has written a fever dream of a novel. And it passes just as a dream does: you close the book and though a few strangely beautiful moments linger (...), what largely remains is a vague impression, an incoherent sense of something profound, a mild sensation of unease." - Andrea Thompson, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Wrong Blood is set in the Basque region of Spain, and it begins just before the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, before jumping ahead to the present (a back and forth that continues throughout the novel). María Antonia Etxarri was still a teenage girl when the war broke out, her stepfather owner of a local inn; now, she is the owner of Las Croces, where she had gone on to spend most of her life in service and which the previous owner left to her. In the present, Miguel Goitia, grandson of the previous owner of Las Croces, comes to spend a few months at the estate in order to study for the notary exam (similar to the American bar exam lawyers take) in quiet and seclusion; it seemed like an ideal place, and María Antonia -- though hardly the welcoming sort -- was willing to accept the arrangement.
       A neighbor, Doctor Castro, takes a particular interest in the visitor, and tries to get know him better. An old man who has lived here for ages now too, he is clearly seeking some answers to some lingering questions, with de Lope dropping the heavy-handed clues, of Doctor Castro considering the young man's face and:

seeking a confirmation that genetics or the heritage implicit in his features might have deposited there.
       María Antonia was raped at the beginning of the war, a violation she knew to expect and then was still surprised by. The rape itself is mentioned early, but de Lope takes his time in drawing out all the consequences (he takes his time about a lot of things, even getting to the rape). As to what these consequences were, there's little doubt from the beginning, what with María Antonia having taken possession of the Las Croces estate and a relative of the former owner visiting ..... The details are only slowly filled in; not surprisingly, Doctor Castro also plays a role, which explains his curiosity so many decades later.
       These few characters offer a microcosm of the Spanish Civil War and its lingering effects to the present day: "Events had been too sordid and too cruel", and few want to reflect on them, or discuss them openly; María Antonia, in particular, says little (and she certainly doesn't dredge up the past), and it's only the nosy neighbor doctor who really meddles in things (as Goitia himself seems to remain blissfully ignorant). But, as the doctor was told decades earlier:
     "Everything's settled," she said in a firm voice. "What you know or don't know makes no difference."
       But, de Lope suggests, the past -- and the horrors of the past -- can't be 'settled' so easily: consequences linger on, and if not poisoning the present they at least weigh heavily on it.
       Artfully told, de Lope's almost coy and constant intimations -- hints and suggestions of what happened, long before he actually gets down to revealing them -- can get tiresome, but the style does have its appeal. The horrors, too, are handled well in an almost understated way, with de Lope focusing in on the smallest and most personal tragedies, reflecting the larger ones that tore apart the fabric of the nation (and still are not entirely mended). Both María Antonia's family's circumstances and fates and those of the woman she went to work for are just representative examples of how the war affected individuals, and María Antonia is living proof of how the hurts linger.
       A fairly powerful novel -- though with just a bit too much that, like Doctor Castro, grates and irritates.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 October 2010

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The Wrong Blood: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Spanish literature under review

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About the Author:

       Spanish writer Manuel de Lope was born in 1949.

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© 2010 the complete review

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