Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
The subtitle of The News from Spain is 7 Variations on a Love Story, so when I first picked it up, I anticipated a single love story told in various points of view and/or at various times. Then I read the full description and realized it was seven separate stories, bound together by a singular theme: love.
Always a sucker for a good love story, although very particular because I don’t like anything too sappy or saccharine, I opened the book with both intrigue and a slight sense of dread that I might be disappointed. I wasn’t.
Joan Wickersham, a National Book Award finalist for another of her works, eloquently weaves these stories together into a volume that both pays homage to all of the individual characters and their situations, while highlighting the binding theme of love, in an interesting variety of forms.
She shows us that love comes in all ways and places, and is often altered by situations–some within our control, some not–and sometimes our feelings of love or even hate are often beyond our own comprehension. We do love or we don’t; we do, but there are doubts and second-guessing, or sometimes even stipulations placed on how or when we will love someone.
The stories are more about the characters’ thoughts and how they process their feelings of love and/or longing, or lack thereof, as opposed to a fairy-tale version of girl meets boy, falls in love, they have a misunderstanding, then get back together and live happily ever after. I also liked that not all of the stories were about romantic love.
Within the pages of Wickersham’s collection, we meet a married couple still together after the husband’s infidelity, yet definitely not in the same place they were before the affair, to a mother and daughter with totally different lifestyles and how they fluctuate between being totally separate from one another to totally connected.
There is the paralyzed ballerina terrified of being deserted by her husband, and the combined fiction/true story (or so the writer tells us) of a love triangle involving Eleanor Roosevelt. Another story features Mozart.
There is the widow whose husband dies in a race car accident, and then learns a secret from the wife of the reporter who had set up an interview with her.
There are two girls in an all boys’ school and the relationships they forge with their teacher and some of the boys at the school; and then there is the story juxtaposing two love affairs–one in the past and one in the present, and in which the characters are not named.
Throughout the collection, Wickersham tells these stories in an extremely eloquent and readable way, that kind of makes you a bit sad when each individual story is over–as, at least for me, I found myself wanting to learn just a little bit more about all of these people and their situations.
The News From Spain is a collection of well-written, intelligent stories that somehow binds characters from different places, times, and situations into a cohesive work with a common theme that will definitely pique your interest and make you want to keep reading.