Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Farm by Hector Abad


The Farm by Hector Abad
First published in Spanish 2014. English language translation by Anne McLean published by Archipelago in April 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £10.73 (PB)
Wordery : from £14.35 (PB)
Waterstones : unavailable
Amazon : from $9.04 / £11.50 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

When the Angel family's beloved home in the Antioquian wilderness falls into danger, they manage to defend it against the guerrillas and, later, the paramilitaries - but at a high price. After their parents' death, Pilar, Eva and Tono have to decide the fate of their father's legacy. While Pilar and Tono want to keep La Oculta, Eva, who experienced something terrible at the old farm house, is determined to sell. As the siblings each struggle with their own problems, their inner conflicts threaten to tear apart not only their home but also their family.

The Farm is, first and foremost, a novel about the concept of home: how we identify home and how the idea of it means different things to different people. In this book three siblings, Pilar, Eva and Tono, take it in turns to narrate their stories of their family home. The farm itself, La Oculta, was hewn from pristine Colombian rock and forest some 150 years earlier by their ancestor and has experienced changing fortunes in a tumultuous country since then.

I liked how each sibling has a very distinct character and voice. Pilar is happily married to her childhood sweetheart and cannot imagine ever being without La Oculta as her home. Eva has been through a number of marriages and relationships and, for her, home is fleeting. Wherever she lives at that moment is home, but she could move elsewhere  next week and live just as happily. Tono has settled down and married his artist boyfriend in New York but returns regularly to La Oculta. For him, the history of the place is what defines it and he is happier delving into La Oculta's past than in dealing with it's present problems.

The Farm feels like an epic read in that it has a large scope of characters and time periods. I enjoyed discovering the old history through Tono's chapters and the recent history from Eva's. The Colombian landscape and Antioquian people are brought vividly to life and I appreciated seeing how the relatively remote township came to exist and then to thrive. At times, particularly earlier on in the book, The Farm felt a little repetitive. I thought this more the case when the characters were establishing themselves and we were sometimes told things about them more than once, but this turned out to be good grounding for later on. This novel explores home and family in a way that I found familiar even though I think this is only the second Colombian-authored novel I have read. The experience of generation gaps and differing expectations is illustrated through Tono's and Eva's American lives while Pilar is more rooted in the mountain community traditions. This is a lovely novel to immerse oneself in and I think would make a good Book Club choice as it raises deep issues to think over and discuss.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Hector Abad / Contemporary fiction / Books from Colombia

8 comments:

  1. That sounds like an emotional read but an interesting story.

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    1. I was surprised by how invested I became in these characters

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  2. I always enjoy your reviews, and this one is no exception. This sounds like an intensely emotional journey for the characters.

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    1. Thank you Sarah!
      This novel I thought was quite unusual in that it has a wide scope, but all hinging on a very specific place.

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  3. This sounds really well done. I like how different you say the siblings are and their concept of home. Great review!

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    1. Thanks Carol!
      As someone who's more like Eva, I found The Farm helped me to understand the other points of view.

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  4. It would be interesting to see what home means to different people, so this sounds like a cool book!

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    1. I thought this a beautiful read although it might be too sliw and sprawling for some

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