Follow Here To Purchase The Sadness of the Samurai: A Novel

Author: Victor del Arbol

(Translated by Mara Lethem)

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-9475-6

If you liked the dark and disturbing ‘Millenium Trilogy’ by Stieg Larson,  Sadness.. just  might be a book you would enjoy.

It is  1981 and Spain is wracked by turmoil as fascist forces attempt a coup. Maria Bengoechea, a successful lawyer, finds her life entangled with that of Cesar Alcala, a man she has helped imprison . In a series of flashbacks, we are then introduced to the beautiful and enigmatic  Isabel Mola , struggling to escape her fascist husband in the shadow of World War Two, even if it means manipulating the lives of innocents around her. Implicated falsely in her murder, Cesar’s father is arrested and killed, triggering a tragic sequence of events that impact Maria’s life. Battling cancer, an abusive ex-husband and a jealous lover, Maria finds new dangers threatening her as she races against time to solve the mystery that connects Cesar Alcala’s life with hers.  The key to it all – her estranged father, and the beautiful samurai sword he once forged for a troubled child.

At some levels, Sadness.. is compelling reading, though it  could prove challenging  for readers unfamiliar  with Spain’s turbulent political climate. Author Arbol weaves a complex  web around his characters -   no one, except the reader, is really aware of the forces at play, the common threads that connect its various characters, or the various conspiracies that progressively delude and destroy them.   He conveys the paranoia and sense of helplessness that must have pervaded the country in the wake of the turmoil of 1941. Arbol’s observations on human frailty and obsession are unscathing, and his eye unflinching in recording every brutal detail of the abuse his characters seem almost pathologically committed to inflicting. Unfortunately , it is this obsessive- and exhausting -  litany of violence that  ultimately works against the book, with Arbol  choosing shock value over plot development, gratuitous sex and violence over narrative restraint. 

Sadness.. brims with  characters that begin with great promise, then swiftly  fall victim to stereotype - the men are almost  all deceptive, amoral, depraved  and abusive; the women, meek, much abused and in various stages of wasting death.  “Your destiny is doomed,” says an ancient palm reader  to Maria, midway through the book. “You are just a link in a chain of pain that imprisons someone.”  That prophecy sums up pretty much every female character in this book, who seem more lemming than human in their headlong rush towards all manner of violent fates.  Things are helped not at all by the annoying and  wordy  interior monologues Arbol’s psychopaths constantly segue into, the  contrived end awaiting the book’s most sinister baddie, or the rather brusque and hurried way in which the book ends.

Follow Here To Purchase The Sadness of the Samurai: A Novel