“There’s a type of open grief that’s public, one of tears and mourning; and there’s another, immense and silent, that is a million times more powerful.”
Initially, the premise for All This I Will Give to You intrigued me and I was gripped by the story’s tragic momentum. Manuel, a bestselling author, receives a visit from the police who inform him that his husband, Álvaro, died in a car crash. When he learns of the crash’s whereabouts, things begin not to add up. It appears that during their 10+ year marriage, Álvaro was hiding a lot from Manuel.
Manuel finds himself travelling to Álvaro’s hometown in Galicia, which also happens to be where Álvaro died and where his supposedly estranged family lives. The family in question is one of the region’s most powerful families, and they did not look kindly on Álvaro’s lifestyle’. Yet, Manuel learns that Álvaro spent considerable time ensuring the smooth running of the family business, using work trips to hide his absences from Manuel. Already struggling to absorb the loss of the love of his life, Manuel is shaken by the discovery of Álvaro’s ‘secret’ life. Initially determined to leave after Álvaro’s funeral, Manuel is given some worrying information about the nature of Álvaro’s crash.
The narrative chronicles Manuel’s investigation into Álvaro’s death, which sadly veers into melodrama as we uncover more about the latter’s past. I would have liked for Álvaro’s family to play more of an active role in the story but they remain for the most part passive background figures who are given very few scenes. The focus is on the dynamic between Manuel and his two ‘unlikely’ allies: a soon-to-be-retired police lieutenant whose determination to uncover the truth is supposed to make up for his unpleasantness, and a priest who is an old friend of Álvaro’s.
The small town ambience is not utilized to its full potential as we mostly switch between the same two or three places. It would have been more interesting to see Manuel interact more with the townspeople and to truly gain an idea of how powerful Álvaro’s family is (rather than having the police guy grumble about how unfair it is that they hold such sway).
While the opening scene struck me for its emotional tone, the remainder of the novel felt rather detached. This may very well appeal to fans of procedurals but I was hoping for a more emotionally stirring tale. Manuel’s investigation basically sees him going backwards and forwards about the kind of man Álvaro was. Yet, I never felt that we do gain a true understanding of this character. I think flashbacks would have made Manuel’s Álvaro into a well-rounded figure. After his death, we are not given that much personal detail about him. His childhood friend thinks the world of him, Manuel doesn’t know what to think of him, and his family is mostly iffy about him because he is gay. These impressions didn’t really add up to an individual (flawed as he may have been). The mystery aspect of the novel goes from whodunnit to a sensationalist crime story that relies on one too many clichés.
While I do know that sometimes people who have been abused grow up into abusers, here this whole is not given the page-time it deserved and therefore I found the reliance on this trope gimmicky at best.
The characters are very one-note, the investigation unfolds in a predictable fashion, and the story’s themes of trauma, grief, and privilege had potential but as the plot progresses they are very much handled in a superficial way. Like I said, at first I was very much captivated by the story’s scenario and dynamics. I am usually intrigued by the outsider in a small town full of secrets type of mystery story. I liked the snippets we get about Manuel’s writing and his career as well as that on flashback giving us a glimpse into his first meeting with pity because I found the opening to be so promising.
Anyhow, just because I wasn’t particularly captivated does not mean you should not give it a try.
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
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