Monday, 3 December 2018

The Storm by Tomas Gonzalez

The Storm by Tomas Gonzalez
First published in Spanish as Temporal in Colombia by Alfaguara in 2013. English language translation by Andrea Rosenberg published by Archipelago Press tomorrow, the 4th December 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a copy from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From one of Colombia’s most acclaimed contemporary novelists, The Storm is an atmospheric, gripping portrait of the resentments that devastate one family. Twins Mario and Javier do not know how to cope with the hatred they feel for their father, an arrogant man whose pride corrodes everything he touches. Perched on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, the family is trapped in spiral of distrust, love, and fear that belies the lush, calm landscape about them and that explodes over the course of a fateful fishing trip straight into the maw of a brutal storm.

The Storm is an intensely powerful novella which is set, hour by hour, over the course of a single day and night as a father and his twin sons go on a fishing trip. Their suitably macho goal is to bring back food for the eighty or so guests in their successful seafront holiday resort however, like that Playamar complex, this family is a cracked and crumbling edifice that may not last through the night. From the first sentences, such as
"Despite the chill at this early hour, Mario wasn't wearing a shirt. The heat of his resentment toward his father kept him warm enough."
Andrea Rosenberg's expert and sympathetic translation makes sure that Gonzalez's ideas fairly crackle off the page and I loved how we readers see events unfurl from three perspectives. Twins Mario and Javier out at sea in a small fishing boat together with their despised father are physically nearest to the approaching storm, but seem least able to comprehend its threat. On land, a chorus of brief first-person monologues from the Playamar guests show us their carefree holiday attitudes gradually changing to anxiety, especially as word gets around that only the one boat remains at sea. And Dona Nora, the twins' mother, maintains the slimmest grasp on reality as, with her head full of competing voices, she is sent more frenziedly into her own imagined world by the energised air. I thought the melding of these narrative lines turned what at heart is a simple tale into a gripping masterpiece!

Several other reviewers I noticed mention Gonzalez's portrayal of fragile and damaged masculinity as the central theme of The Storm. The father appears absolutely convinced of his superiority to everyone else and yet his need to constantly reinforce this belief with a stream of patronising insults belies him. His sons have grown up past the age where they idolised him, and now his incessant griping leaves them resentful and fractious. They saw their mother mentally destroyed by years of their father's selfish behaviour and yearn for freedom, yet his bullying has cowed them all so much that escape would require some kind of dark miracle.

I felt increasingly tense through The Storm as there is a certain inevitability to events. The boat and the resort are definitely in the path of this storm, but Gonzalez doesn't ever take the easy route of disaster-thriller. He never allows pace to get away from him and I loved the glimpses of nature, beauty and light we get amid the mayhem. Children rush through the dark to hunt crabs on the beach, and the father spots an orange sunset just visible off to the side of a huge black storm cloud. At the heart of this story though is the wonderful Greek tragedy of this father and his sons. The metaphor of the gathering tempest is perfect to reflect their antagonism towards each other.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tomas Gonzalez / Contemporary fiction / Books from Colombia


  1. oh wow sounds so good! Good pacing is so important for a professional DNFer like me :) And other than Marquez's I don't think I have read any books by a Colombian author! I'll add this to my list!

    1. The Storm is superb! I feel so lucky to have stumbled across it on NetGalley :-)

  2. wow this was not on my radar and sounds like a great read on a topic you don't see covered alot
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. It's amazingly well written and so atmospheric