Julie's Reviews > Nada

Nada by Carmen Laforet
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's review
Dec 17, 13

bookshelves: best-of-2009, read-2009, classic, iberia-theme-setting
Read in March, 2009

To me, this novel represents literary perfection. The writer presents her characters without judgment, unrolls a plot that is simple in the outline but incredibly nuanced in the detail, a story that is so utterly of its era and location yet timeless in its themes.

This novel is set in Barcelona in the early 1940's, but as Mario Vargas Llosa notes in his introduction, references to the Spanish Civil War are very few and vague. Yet the physical, intellectual and cultural destruction of the war are personified in the wretched and brutal family of aunts, uncles and grandmother with which Andrea spends her first year of university.

It is a coming of age tale, a intimate glimpse into a young woman's existential crisis, a complex and unresolved display of class and gender inequality. That this semi-autobiographical portrait was written by Laforet in her early twenties is astonishing; that it isn't presented in high school or university literature classes is tragic.

To again quote Vargas Llosa, it is a "beautiful and terrible novel" but not without tremendous hope and strength of character. I ended it feeling uplifted!

"That was when I began to realize that it is much easier to endure great setbacks than everyday petty annoyances."

I read this line spoken by the novel's narrator, Andrea, and it struck me- so simple, yet profound. It's the way I'm feeling about this novel-its clean & quiet style belies the complexity of the story and the chaos of its characters' lives. I find Andrea heroic- she is so wise even as she acknowledges her own naivete; she possesses a quiet dignity that allows her to endure the emotional abuse of her broken and ill extended family and drives her to near-starvation to bring beauty into her life.
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