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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Corridors of Shadow

Agustín Fernández Paz

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To purchase Corridors of Shadow

Title: Corridors of Shadow
Author: Agustín Fernández Paz
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 196 pages
Original in: Galician
Availability: Corridors of Shadow - US
Corridors of Shadow - UK
Corridors of Shadow - Canada
Corredores de sombra - España (Gallego)
Corredores de sombra - España (Español)
  • Galician title: Corredores de sombra
  • Translated by Jonathan Dunne

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Our Assessment:

B : engaging; well-told

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Corridors of Shadow is narrated by Clara Soutelo, writing her story as she is: "nearing the milestone of thirty", but focusing almost entirely on the summer of 1995, when she was sixteen. Relying on her memory, and her diaries, she recounts the events of that significant summer, spent at the family estate, Soutelo Manor, some thirty miles from where the family lived, in Coruña. It used to be the residence of Clara's grandmother, Rosalía -- whom Clara closely resembles -- but she died two years earlier, and Clara's father, bought his siblings' shares so that he already owned -- and controlled -- the house outright.
       The summer gets off to an exciting start when, in the course of the renovation being done, workers discover a skeleton that had been walled up decades earlier. A skeleton with two bullet holes, the dead man apparently having been murdered and then hidden here, presumably during the tumultuous times of the Spanish Civil War.
       Clara's father sees to it that all the proper procedures are followed -- but is influential enough to also make sure that news is handled very discreetly: "the last thing they wanted was some journalist finding out and sullying the good name of the Soutelos". Clara's father doesn't seem very interested or eager to ascertain who the dead person is, and makes sure no one else is either. Teenage Clara, however, increasingly has a mind of her own, and can't help but be curious; she also finds something that the police overlooked when they examined the scene and took away the body -- perhaps a clue as to the dead man's identity.
       Clara also befriends a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Miguel, whom she first encounters when he trespasses on the Soutelo property, helping himself to some fruit (that would otherwise go to waste unpicked). The initially somewhat antagonistic relationship blossoms into a first-love affair, as the two find they have more in common than they thought -- despite his working-class background, Miguel is as much of a reader as she is, for example. She also finds the down-to-earth Miguel is much more sympathetic than the shallow relatives and friends she is supposed to hang out with. Of course, the family wouldn't approve, so she has to keep her relationship quiet -- which proves hard to do in the small town, especially once she and Miguel also start asking questions about the past. At least they find an ally in Clara's artistic uncle -- so different from his rigid brother, the lord of the manor -- who comes to spend most of the summer at the estate too.
       Gradually, Clara is able to piece together parts of the past, including the story of the grandfather she barely knew, Pablo, and her grandmother, Rosalía -- and Rafael, the young teacher who had come to town in the 1930s, and whom Rosalía, the daughter of a wealthy local household, had fallen in love with, but who disappeared at the start of the civil war .....
       This dark part of Spanish history is one Clara and Miguel have learned little about, in school or at home. The Soutelo family, wanting to protect the status quo they thrived in, naturally fought against the Republicans -- with Clara's grandfather, Pablo taking: "charge of the local repression" and drawing up the lists: "of those who had to be killed or punished", while Rosalía's older brother, Héctor enthusiastically: "committed every kind of atrocity you can imagine". Returning from the front at the end of the war, Pablo married Rosalía -- and consolidated his local power, becoming mayor. But, as Clara learns, their marriage was not a particularly happy one. Still, it seems: "Helping Rafael must have been Pablo's final act of generosity" -- even though Rafael was the man Rosalía had fallen in love with first .....
       Corridors of Shadow is an account of a transformative summer, in which Clara begins to learn more about her family -- beginning to understand her parents' past, and the generation before them, and the role they played in a piece of Spanish history that still wasn't being openly discussed. The adolescent Clara begins to come into her own, these events helping lead her to intellectual and emotional independence.
       Fernández Paz fumbles a bit with the mysterious corpse -- the mystery as to his identity is a fairly weak one -- but it functions well enough as motivation to explore those times, and the actions of those alive back then, in greater depth. The love-affair between Miguel and Clara works quite well in the story -- though the difference in class is presented too extremely, all black and white. Elsewhere, too, Fernández Paz is too predictable with his types and roles, as, for example, the artistic, understanding uncle who isn't like the rest of the family naturally has to be homosexual.
       Corridors of Shadow is a Young Adult title, but not in the least patronizing, and it isn't overly simplistic. If the plot and types could occasionally have more depth, the writing is consistently very good, and Clara a thoroughly engaging narrator. Some of the condemnation comes too easily, but not with most of the harder questions, as Corridors of Shadow doesn't fall back on just easy answers. And, despite its setting and subject matter, Corridors of Shadow is readily accessible to readers unfamiliar with this background, the universals easily trumping any of these local specifics.
       This is a good piece of writing, and very good teen fare -- perhaps not particularly remarkable, but a substantial and consistently engaging read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 December 2017

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Corridors of Shadow: Reviews: Agustín Fernández Paz: Other books by Agustín Fernández Paz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Galician-writing Agustín Fernández Paz lived 1947 to 2016. He was a popular author and especially known for his children's/YA books.

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© 2017 the complete review

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