The House of Impossible Loves follows the Laguna family through four generations. The women of this family are cursed with tragic love affairs that end up in the birth of another girl, so the curse perpetuates itself. Will any of them be capable of breaking it?
I like magical realism, and this novel is full of it. But it is a very particular brand of magical realism: it has a very Castillian taste about it. Cristina López Barrios has an excellent prose, albeit too florid at times, and it is one of the highlights of the novel. All of the Laguna women and even one of the men (Santiago) have a knack for cuisine and gardening, so the text is infused with beautiful metaphors from nature and baking, and hard, gutty ones from hunting and preparing the animals to be eaten. The prose evokes smells, flavors and textures with ease. It is at times too raw, and at times fleeting and a bit repetitive, but it has potential to really shine as the author matures.
The story itself is very physical, even primeval. From the heartbreak suffered by Clara Laguna, the first Laguna woman we meet, every one of them focuses on their lust and gluttony - it's a common thread through the novel. Clara gives in to lust for revenge, Manuela thinks this licentiousness is the cause of their curse, so she represses her instincts. But The House of Impossible Loves doesn't condemn women for being human, and Manuela's strategy doesn't pay off. It is a good commentary on the nature of superstitions and the role of women throughout Spanish recent history. Blamed for their sins and termed witches, but once born in disgrace they would not be able to change their fate.
I was really invested in the story, which was definitely haunting, but unequal. It wasn't my favorite read of the year, but I'm willing to read more by this author.
Have you read any good magical realism lately?