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A Million Drops

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,038 ratings  ·  174 reviews
An intense literary thriller that tears through the interlocked histories of facism and communism in Europe without pausing for breath

Gonzalo Gil is a lawyer stuck in a disaffected life, in a failed career, trying to dodge the constant manipulation of his powerful father-in-law. This monotonous existence is shaken up when he learns, after years without news of his
Paperback, 631 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Other Press (NY) (first published May 13th 2014)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,038 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Jaidee (Away from Goodreads until Feb 2...happy reading)
5 "epic, immense and unforgettable" stars !!

It was a dark night, but slowly the wind pushed the clouds aside and there appeared a pale moon that gave shape to the jumbled shadows. A group of women crouched together furtively, defecating by the sea; they had aged and withered at the camps, robbed of their lives and their dignity. Why? What for? For tomorrow, people said, unshakeable in their belief that everything they'd been through meant something. A better future for their children and
America’s literary scene is so robust that it tends to eclipse exciting work appearing around the world. Other Press of New York has a terrific record of finding and translating for us the best of European fiction and this month we are treated to a historical thriller from Spain, first published in 2014 in Barcelona. The author Víctor del Árbol was a seminarian and historian before embarking on a successful literary career, so his thrillers have recognizable historical underpinnings and a rich ...more
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Overall satisfying, but not a crime novel, not really; more like a hybrid historical novel-literary thriller, stuffed with various and varied characters very well-fleshed out, for the most part, from a child soldier turned gigolo (present) to a one-eyed, Gulag-surviving, Spanish revolutionary re-deployed as a Stalin-era enforcer (past). Gripping, but as the smoke cleared with the final paragraph, Two distractions remembered: 1) weirdly, a major character is named Anna Akhmatova but is *not* the ...more
Kathy Reback
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
A little more than half way through I decided life is too short and my list of To Reads is too long. I was in the mood for a good literary thriller so was especially disappointed in this. Maybe something got lost in the translation? The pace is a little too slow and the characters a little too stock (the rich wife who doesn't want their lifestyle affected by her husband's search for justice; the former prostitute with a heart o' gold; the Russian photographer who chain smokes and quotes poetry, ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing story, covering almost a hundred years of Spanish history. A truly remarkable tale with many incidents unknown to me - Americans know so little about the Spanish Civil War. The horrifying story of the Russian Gulag followed by the equally horrifying tale of Spanish refugees in France were eye opening.

The book reminded me of two of my favorite authors: Jo Nesbo and Ross MacDonald. The intricate plotting and the details, never shying away from the grotesque or horrific, put Árbol on
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a monster of a book. A huge story than extends in time, fiction but a story that may well have happened in reality. Victor del Arbol is among the best reading in spanish.
Tonstant Weader
May 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
A Million Drops tells the stories of three generations whose lives have been shaped by history. In the first generation, there is Elías Gil, a committed young Communist from Spain who traveled to the Soviet Union to study. When he and three fellow scholarship students he befriended on the train to Moscow are forced to confess to crimes against the state and sentenced to Siberia, he meets and falls in love with Irina and her daughter Anna. He also meets Igor Stern an implacable enemy whose life ...more
Rebecca Kightlinger
A Million Drops
Víctor del Árbol, Other Press, 2018, pb, 640 pp, $19.95, 9781590518458. Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman

“Nobody wants to be sent off to freeze to death in Siberia. So the police make up any damn excuse to send them there, no trial, nothing. All it takes is no internal passport.”

So begins Elías Gil’s nightmare. Having traveled to the USSR in 1933 to study and work, the idealistic young Communist engineer from Barcelona leaves his friends in a bar to go outside for a
Peter A
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this well-written book by Spanish author Victor del Arbol.

This is a murder mystery (there are several deaths), and much more. It is set in context of the upheavals in Europe (primarily in Russia and Spain) in the 1930s to 1950s, and in current Barcelona Spain of 2000s. It is the story of the intertwined lives of several main characters and their children and friends. It is a story that stretches truth (or suppresses it) to preserve an image of a very flawed protagonist.

May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I finished this book, the years rolled down my cheeks. I sat in silence, not hearing the birds or traffic or voices near me.

I have not had this visceral reaction since seeing "Schindler's List" in 1993; after finishing " We the Living" which I read in 1967 and after finishing JRR Tolkien's Trilogy with "The Hobbit" the first time. I have heard witness testimonies or read about witness statements regarding the horrors of living under Stalin. I was aware that Spain was fighting for Communism,
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a long, ambitious book told from the viewpoint of tortured characters. Some of them were tortured by Russian communists, some by Franco era Spanish communists. Spanning a generation or two, there were some days when I thought about Tolstoy writing “War & Peace”, and sharing a big pot of coffee with Pasternak while he worked on Dr. Zhivago.
At 600 pages, not for the reader faint of heart, nor those nearing death by old age...I thought I might not make it, and I feel older.
Were there
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This exceptionally smart thriller reminded me of James Meeks' The Peoples Act of Love, but with an even broader canvas, taking in Stalin's mass deportations, the Spanish civil war, the Russian German treaty of nonaggression, and contemporary Spain. With remarkable deftness, Arbol jumps back and forth in multiple eras, working towards a single night in 1967 that is the culmination of three decades of trauma, lies, double-dealing, and the ways in which ideology makes monsters of men and women. It ...more
Canadian 135
A sweeping family saga, from Revolutionary Spain to the Soviet Gulag and back to modern Barcelona. The sadness and madness of the Soviet experience. What people do in service of ideologies, and then when betrayed by ideology - what humans will do to survive. Four young foreigners volunteer in Soviet Union because they are Communists, and end up in the Gulag - the description of what happens to them is horrendous. One of the characters ends up fighting against Franco for the revolutionaries; we ...more
Laronda Blessing
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely dark and a bit depressing, but well-written and a compelling plot. Lots of miserable people, murders, tragedy, etc. through the family history of Spanish lawyer Gonzalo Gil. Much of the story takes place in Russia and Spain in the 1930s-50s, so the dark and depressing tone and events are completely appropriate. Gonzalo's father Elias' deportation to the barren Siberian island of Nazino, was particularly brutal. I read more about the real events that took place on Nazino in the 30s, and ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
This mystery is set in contemporary Spain, where a cynical lawyer learns that his sister has committed suicide following being accused of a crime. The book travels back in time, to look at their father, who supported the socialists during the Spanish Civil War. Although the book was very long, it didn't develop the characters very well, and I found the plot hard to follow, because it kept jumping back and forth between the 1930s and the present day. Also, the author would introduce characters ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unusual book because it is a family saga, a mystery novel and a historical novel. That is quite a lot. We go back and forth in time and in space from the Bolshevik revolution to the Spanish civil war to modern Barcelona, from Russia to France and Spain. We follow a myriad of different characters, none heroic, who are all interlinked somehow. Altogether a good book very well constructed and written although a bit long at times.
Bill Berger
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a big fan of both the Spanish Civil War and the Russian Revolution, the novel spends time in both camps, much to my delight. There has to be a little of belief suspension as the coincidences really abound throughout the book but nonetheless, the book and its characters and the storyline is believable enough to hold ones interest through this big book.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it liked it
This crime novel translated from Spanish won several awards in its native country. Though it did have several interesting plot lines, from Russia during the Stalin era to the Spanish Civil War and continuing to present day, I felt like it tried to do too much. Also the dialogue and characterization seemed quite wooden and static, though that perhaps is the fault of the translation. 3 stars
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel has an epic scope--it traces Spanish and Russian characters from 1930s Spain and Russia to the present day. Its themes are violence and despair. There is a lot of suffering and death and not too many moments of redemption. Communism and fascism and war are bad, and people are terrible!
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially I was completely taken up with this story, located in Barcelona, but which has the Spanish Civil War, European communism and Russia as the backdrop to a tale of loyalty, betrayal, double agents, love and revenge. But ultimately it was too long. By the time I got to page 629 I had run out of interest in the large array of characters.
Kelly J. Broussard
Highly recommend if you like good story-telling. The writing is tight and has a
coherent narrative that toggles back and forth in time and brings all of the characters together in a logical, believable story arc. This long book kept me up late several nights and was well worth it.
Canadian 135
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A sprawling novel tracing the impact of the Soviet Union's involvement in the Spanish Civil War on generations. Family drama weaving through clashes of communism and fascism. I found it a bit of a slog, though characters and back-drop were interesting.
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Past and present are mixed to explain the Elias Gil's life and the myths about himself. Some facts are true and others are simply legend. Spain war and its consequences are developed in a novel that grips your attention from the first chapter
Aaron Spiegel
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. I so wanted it to be true I that looked up the characters to see if maybe del Arbol based the characters on real people and real events. This is not a book to be read fast, and when I finished I found myself going back to the beginning to start reading it again.
Rebecca Bushá
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Good book. It lost me at points but kept drawing me back in. I was more into the modern day story than the WWII story. I really liked how it all tied together in the end. It was a little hard to follow at points because there were so many characters.
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Truly amazing!
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give it 4-1/2 stars. I had to read this book in small doses because it is such a heavy subject matter. A powerful well written book.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An absolute masterpiece. The story, the construction - brilliant. I already want to read it again.
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Very long, lots of revenge killing, many characters that were hard to keep track of, but showed me some history that I was unaware of.
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Víctor del Árbol was born in Barcelona in 1968 and worked for the Catalan government between 1992 and 2012. He studied history in the University of Barcelona. El abismo de los sueños (not published) was a finalist in the prestigious Premio Fernando Lara in 2003. In 2006 he won the Premio Tiflos de Novela with El peso de los muertos. In 2011 he published La tristeza del samurái (Editorial Alrevés), ...more
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