This novel was unrelentingly depressing. There might have been two instances which didn’t make me feel anxious or sad.
The dialogues are the best thing about The Affairs of the Falcóns. Rivero has an ear for the way in which people speak, for rendering with terrifying realism those fraught and tense pauses that fill an argument or a conversation, and for depicting the hesitancy that might make its way into one’s words.
On the other hand, I found Rivero’s prose and her characters to be incredibly flat. I find this particular writing style very hit or miss: the narration merely describes the actions and movements of a character without fleshing out his or her personality. If I was distressed by Ana Falcón’s situation it was not because I really cared or believed in Ana as a character but because I am not completely heartless. Ana seems to lack a personality, she experiences hardship after hardship, and yet, we never get to see her inner self, or the way in which the strain she is under affects her mental health and thinking. For instance, I knew that Ana was angry not because the narration shows us why and how she is angry but because we are told that she smacks the sofa she is sitting on. The narrative style was too passive and unattached for my taste (hopefully other readers won’t be as bothered by this).
The characters themselves were many shades of selfish. Certainly, I did not think that Ana should get along with her husband or with his family but why should her friendship be so very…unfriendly?
The women in this novel are constantly accusing each other of behaving ‘improperly’ with each other’s husbands, they are judgemental about each other, and they seem to be anything but ‘friends’. There were two moments (both of which occur in a mere sentence) that showed that Ana’s friends did seem to care for her.
Still, even if I found the prose to be as attractive as my shopping list, I do think that the dialogues were incredibly realistic. Sadly, the characters behind these conversations and arguments were not as fleshed out as the words they spoke. All of the characters share not only the same ‘mood’ but the same sort of underwhelming personality.
Soon I found that the various scenes sort of followed a similar formula: we have Ana entering a house or building, she has a confrontation of some sort with one character, one of them leaves the room. Characters kept telling Ana off for something or other, and she is unable to make a valid argument in self-defence. The ending tries—and fails—to give readers a glimmer of hope in an abyss of despair.
I listened to this novel with a growing sense of dread, in a perpetual state of anxiety, and frustrated beyond belief over the way the characters were portrayed and the very way the story was told.
Part of me wishes that I had read (or listened) to this novel, not because this story is not important (and it has a lot of frighteningly realistic situations) but because it is told in such an unaffected, almost uncaring, way.