The year is 1992 and Felipe Félix, an almost house-bound computer hacker, is summoned to investigate a murder committed in the sinister mirrored towers of Señor Tamerlán. Félix is a veteran of the Falklands war and ten years on the Malvinas still haunts his dreams and waking life. "The Islands" is part war novel, part dystopian thriller and the reader is never sure what is reality and what is the product of Félix's damaged mind.
Gamerro paints a vivid picture of both Buenos Aires and the Malvinas, creating nightmarish landscapes peopled with ridiculously grotesque characters. The human failings which led to the war and the horrific price paid by the combatants are savagely described and at times "The Islands" is very moving.
I did enjoy Gamerro's writing but the intensity hardly ever lets up and as one hectic set piece followed another I often felt weary. At times "The Islands" did feel overindulgent and, on reading that Gamerro had cut about a hundred pages for the English translation, I have to admit that I was glad it wasn't longer.
on 2 February 2015
I really, really enjoyed this book. The 'baroque fiction' (his term) style, (a sort of combination of the real and the hallucinatory,) captivated me and I cried at the end, (on a plane.) It's not perfect; sometimes the humour misses the mark a little, the narrative gets a little odd and it is overlong. But overall I thought it excellent. It might not to be everyone's taste, but everyone should at least try it.
on 22 August 2012
I picked this book up by chance in an Amnesty bookshop in late June - before it was officially published. The fact that it was already on sale there suggests that, like me, the person who had been sent it/read it had thought it not all it was cracked up to be.
I was genuinely disappointed by this book. It is far too long, verbose (God knows what it must have been like originally, Gamerro says he has cut over 100 pages off the original), repetitive as to the protagonist's doped out time, and could have covered the same material in about half of the space. I say this as someone who reads a huge amount of Latin American fiction, loves Argentine fiction (arlt, Borges, Bioy Casares, etc.). But this is not a patch on any of it, and I found it extremely disappointing.
Having said that, it's every bit as good as most contemporary British fiction, and you could do worse. It has some good descriptions of the Malvinas, and of its impact on Argentine society in the late 80s/early 90s. Just don't expect a great novel, and don't believe the reviews. Nick Caistor's in particular is a big disappointment, he must know this is not a patch on much of the great work that he has translated (including RobertoA rlt's great novel, The Seven Madmen - which, interestingly, is about a third of the length of this, and deals with similar themes for its time.....)