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on 31 August 2012
The Skating rink is told through the successive narratives of three male characters, one a corrupt petty Gov't official, one a small town entrepreneur and the third a poet (the Bolano Character). The plot, as do the male characters, circle around a beautiful professional figure skater called Nuria, who has lost her place on the Spanish national team & in the process her training venue. The Gov't official obsessed with Nuria, steps in to save the day & with delusions of heroic worth, diverts Gov't money to fund the building of a secret skating rink in an abandoned villa, high up on the coast. Of all the novels by Bolano this is the closest to an out and out crime story, although seen through the lens of this particular writer, there is a murder, there are signposts alerting you along the way (the outline of a knife visible through clothing, the mental instability of one the characters etc.), and, although the murder is solved, when the body is found about two-thirds of the way through the book, it is almost an after thought. In this book there is no Detective, sleuthing away, the crime is mundane, an occurrence, there is no cry for justice, this is all about implication, or how to avoid it. The three men are not bothered by who has died, or how, just how it affects their lives. There's no honour here, no heroism that's not sullied by self interest, or self regard. So although this book features a death, someone is actually murdered, this merely acts as a spotlight onto the characters, making The Skating Rink a Detective tale where the crime is secondary to the protagonists involved.

This book had me puzzled, it reminded me of another book, and at first I thought it was Lawrence Durrell's " The Alexandria Quartet" which as a tetralogy offers us four perspectives via four novels on the same series of events. But that wasn't it. It was then I realised that it was a tale I'd read last year in Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Rashomon and 17 other stories, this tale "In the bamboo grove" concerns the murder of a traveller & the alleged rape of his wife, and is told through the differing perspectives of the various witnesses, all of who have their own agenda (including the deceased), yet with this story, there is blood and passion, which although it appears in the Skating Rink it's more theoretical. Yes the official obsesses over the skater, yet it's how it affects him, not her, that concerns him, and although the entrepreneur sleeps with Nuria, this seems to be more of a convenience between them both.

Whilst this book may start out wearing the garb of a crime thriller, it some how through the telling manages to twist and turn, as though it passes through some mirror and comes out with it's internal logic up ended. All we are left with is a vague and intense, unrealized longing. Whether this for some idealized past, or just some ideal, I don't know & that haunts.

If you have not read any Roberto Bolano before, and this is your first, your introduction to this writers work, you will enjoy this book, you will see glimpses of that spark, that lust for the written word, that you've heard so much about. I'm guessing you will be left slightly quizzical - sparks can, but don't necessarily, combust into a forest fire, words that merely lust for life can fade, can become jaded.Thankfully here this doesn't happen, hindsight allows us to look back and unlike Epimetheus* we are unlikely to trip, knowing full well what he goes on to write and what this book signposts admirably.
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Once again Bolano shows how he could mix genres creating a tale that is truly multi-layered. This book is written in short chapters by three different male voices. You have Enric Rosquelles, an official in the town municipality, Remo Moran, an immigrant businesman, and Gaspar Heredia, an immigrant who has outstayed his visa. Through their voices we find out more about the seaside town of Z on the Costa Brava, and some of the inhabitants.

Coming back into the town is the beautiful Nuria Marti, an Olympic figure skater who is suddenly dropped by the team. In unexpected ways the three men revolve around her in differing degrees. Enric syphons off funds from the council to build her an ice rink in the former swimming pool of a disused mansion. But things start to alter when a dead body turns up on the ice rink. Enric is arrested for murder and embezzling, but is he the murderer?

Through a host of bizarre characters we eventually find out all the threads of the story, which takes in obsession, jealousy, corruption, immigration, blackmail, romance and murder. The whole setting feels slightly surreal, but we do get a feeling what life is like for immigrants and how small seaside towns change through the seasons.

As usual with all of Bolano's works you are made to think whilst reading and the story remains with you long afterwards. If you have never read any of his books before then this probably isn't the best one to start with, although it is very rewarding. If you are a Bolano fan then you should really have this book in your collection.
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on 26 February 2015
RB has written a superb murder-mystery here in which the murder is the least important element and the true mystery is the life we are all given, taking unexpected twists and turns above steep drops, like the road to the old palace where the eponymous (and anonymous) skating rink is constructed. I won't reprise the plot, which is clever, but can confirm the tripartite narrative structure works a treat and we get to know three very different characters reacting in very different ways to the same old challenges thrown at us all - sex, death, ambition, love, material success or impoverishment, etc. Some of it is funny too, especially the account of Enric Rosquelles, a dodgy local council officer and a man for whom RB obviously has great sympathy. The ending has the flavour of Dickens's Bleak House and it's a tribute to this marvellous writer that what comes before is every bit as good as the old master. Yep, that good.
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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2011
The Skating Rink is one of Bolano's more accessible novels and a perfect place to start if you have never read him before. The story evolves in short chapters, although each chapter is written as one paragraph - I think the longest lasted for 8 pages - but long paragraphs are a trademark of Bolano's writing. It is told through the eyes of 3 characters, a civil servant, a local entrepeneur and a poet during one summer on the Costa Brava. It is a perfectly plotted literary tale of corruption and murder, full of suspense and I ended up reading it in one sitting. Anyone who enjoys beautiful, poetic writing should try Bolano. If you have been put of this author by reading 2666, undoubtedly his most difficult novel, then give him another chance with this one.
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on 6 May 2011
This book does in a way differ from much of Bolaño's other work, but it is hard to explain exactly why. It is fully set in a small town in Spain, not something huge like Mexico City or other places you might be used to if you've read a few of his books. The way this one is narrrated by three different characters work very well, and it keeps the excitement high throughout the novel.
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on 21 August 2013
Even so book was quite good an interesting to read I have given rating of 3 stars purely relative to other Bolano works that I have read which are outstanding
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