Sunday, 13 January 2019

Seeing Red by Lina Meruane


Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
First published in Spanish as Sangre en el ojo by Pangea Libros in Chile in 2012. English language translation by Megan McDowell published in America by Deep Vellum Publishing in 2016.

My 3rd 2019 Mount TBR Challenge read

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Winner of the prestigious Mexican Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize

Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman - one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.

Seeing Red is an intriguing blend of fact and fiction where it is impossible to know how much of the narrative actually happened to Lina Meruane, the author, and how much has been imagined for Lina Meruane, the fictional character. Reading the novel in the first person adds to this sense of the two being indistinguishable and, for me, this worked brilliantly well although, having since read other reviews, I understand that not all readers were as enthusiastic!

I was grateful that Seeing Red does not go into graphically clinical detail about Lina eyes because that would probably have been too much for squeamish little me. Instead Meruane focuses on how it feels to suddenly be robbed of clear vision. I admit that going blind is one of my personal fears so I could identify with Lina's emotional responses. Her having expected eventual blindness (as a result of diabetes) was a particularly chilling concept. I cannot imagine how terrifying it would be to spend months or years knowing that an essentially minor physical action (picking up something off the floor) could have such dire repercussions. Of course, as Lina is in America, there is also the added stress of having to deal with her heartless healthcare insurance company.

Lina herself, the fictional one, doesn't come across as a typically sympathetic character. She isn't a passive female victim of circumstance and I loved that her initial need to lean - figuratively and literally - on her partner, Ignacio, is soon replaced by a determination to regain her independence. While Ignacio and Lina's family pin their hopes on successful surgery to restore Lina's sight, the woman herself cannot maintain such blind faith (pun intended). Learning of her doctor's fallibility is a turning point and, again, I loved that Letz isn't a typical fictional surgeon. He is tired, not dashing, and struggles to remember one patient from another. Retinas are strikingly individual for him, but the patients carrying them into his office, day after day, blur together. The irony of an eye doctor being unable to identify patients by sight is a great touch.

Seeing Red explores senses other than sight of course. Lina begins to speak in terms of sound, scent or touch as she becomes more fluent in translating these senses into her new sight. Meruane also explores to what extent sighted people don't actually use their vision. We see what used to be rather than what is there now, or we allow our emotions or our cultural heritage to colour true appearances. I bought Seeing Red on a WorldReads whim knowing pretty much nothing about the novel or Meruane's writing. I am delighted to have found a thoughtful and thought-provoking gem.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Lina Meruane / Contemporary fiction / Books from Chile

12 comments:

  1. Going blind or deaf would be really hard.

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  2. My mom faces this. She is slowly going blind. She says that she is glad its not sudden and she has time to adjust her life. She has a neighbor who is completely blind and is helping her do practical things to prepare.

    Sounds like this story addresses the emotional response as well as the practical side. I am intrigued since I want to understand what my mom is facing in the next few years.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. Seeing Red might help a little with your understanding.

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  3. Wow, that would be scary, but it sounds like this book was a really great look (for lack of a better word) into what it'd be like to suddenly lose your vision. I can imagine how this would be thought-provoking.

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    1. Meruane writes partly from experience so, I think, really nails the conflicting emotions her character feels

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  4. I can't imagine such a traumatic event. Sounds like all of the ramifications were explored in this book.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I thought Meruane created a brilliant novel here. It's so real and feels authentic

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  5. This follows such a traumatic event in a non- traditional way. This sounds right up my alley!!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. Yes absolutely! I think Seeing Red would be a good fit for you :-)

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  6. It sounds like this one is definitely deserving of the award it won and I want to read it myself too now. It sounds powerful, and like the main character is a force of nature I am going to get along with. Great review x

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    1. She doesn't always behave in a likeable way, but I did like the character and how she tried to come to terms with what had happened to her

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