Monday, January 13, 2014

Book 7: The Rhythm of Memory

Given how much I enjoyed Richman's novel The Lost Wife, there really was no way I was going to pass this up when I found it for $3.99 in a bargain bin.  Like her other novel, she plays with timelines, basically using the novel's modern day of 1998 to frame the story.  However, she starts the novel with a teaser, Salome's release from prison in 1974 where she has been held to punish her husband for speaking out against Pinochet's regime in Chile.
After these two beginnings of the prison release and the Ribeiro's family life as recipients of political asylum in Sweden, the novel traces the relationship between Salome and her husband Octavio.  Octavio wooed Salome when she was only 17, and they are set up as the loves of each other's lives.  However, when Octavio becomes in politics, his naivety and inability to truly comprehend the horrors of Pinochet place his wife in danger.  He doesn't quite understand that this is different from previous situations in Chile and not just another coup.  Pinochet means to keep power and suppress dissension.
Interspersed with this story is another couple.  Samuel Rudin's family escaped  to Peru from France before the Nazis took over, though their extended family perished in the Holocaust.  Years later, he has become a therapist specializing in war trauma, serving the immigrant community in Sweden.  His wife, Kaija, is a Finnish war baby, meaning that as a child in Finland, her parents sent her to Sweden for safety purposes in 1944.  While the reader reads chapters from her mother's perspective, and sees how much her mother loved her, Kaija never quite comes to terms with this part of her past, and has feelings of abandonment.  Much of this novel revolves around things unsaid or lost, as can be seen with Kaija and her past as well as Salome and Octavio.  After Salome's release from prison and torture, Salome is both angry at Octavio and wants to protect him from the worst, which creates a gulf between them.
I feel like Richman does a very good job of developing the different parts of the story - the early relationship between Salome and Octavio almost had a fairy tale like feel to it, and the tone reminded me very much of South American authors I've read.  I liked all the characters, and Richman treats them all very sympathetically, even when they are doing things that are questionable.  After having read so many novels by Isabel Allende, it was very weird to actually see her uncle appear in the pages of this novel as a character.  He is of course the president that Pinochet overthrows, and the man Allende often refers to as "the poet" - Pablo Neruda - also has a small appearance.
From what I've read of Richman, I quite like her novels and her style.  She tells small personal stories on a large background, and she creates characters it is easy to feel for.  I'll definitely pick up another one of hers at some point.


Kelly of said...

I didn't like this one nearly as much as The Lost Wife. Parts of it were hard to stomach.

Jen K said...

Oh, I definitely agree that The Lost Wife was better. It was hard to see how Octavio could be so naive - some other things I thought made sense to the story and didn't bother me but I know some readers were less happy with some of Salome's actions.

astrid said...

And you got this for only $3 :) what a good bargain.