Top positive review
Life is a tough teacher.
on 27 September 2015
As I had read Cercas' earlier books I was keen to read this one and I was not disappointed.
The book takes place from the end of the Franco era in the mid-1970s to the present. It describes how Canas, a studious teenager from a conventional home joins a gang of "quinquis" (the English equivalent might be gypsy/travellers) from the other side of the river and spends his summer on a spree of crime and mayhem. The gang is led by Zarco who is described as charismatic, manipulative and unscrupulous. Without giving the plot away, the events of that summer and his relationship with Zarco profoundly influence the rest of Canas' life.
Cercas cleverly allows us to see the plot from several points of view, not only of Canas, but also of a police inspector and a prison superintendent. Whilst the plot is based around crime and delinquency, Cercas' skills give depth to the story so it becomes a meditation on growing up; the meaning of personal responsibility; how we perceive right and wrong and more.
Readers who persist with this deeply Spanish book will, I think, be very satisfied when they reach its conclusion.