Finished Nada, by Carmen Laforet. A brilliant novel, especially for one so young. Set in Barcelona, it’s the story of Andrea’s 18th year, which she lives with her uncles, aunt, grandmother, and assorted other members of her extended family. A very eccentric, at times dangerous family.
The novel starts slowly, almost as if the author, like her main character Andrea, were feeling out the surroundings, taking tentative, uncertain steps. But it soon picks up steam, the prose becomes more assured and vibrant, and before long, the reader is thoroughly involved in the story, the setting, and hoping for the best, though the signs are often dark and more than sordid.
I especially like the relationship that developed between Andrea and Ena, the beautiful, blond, almost princess-like character who constantly surprises both the reader and Andrea. Surprises us because she breaks the stereotypes she should adhere to. Breaks them because she seems to have a will of her own that is contrary, perhaps, even to the wishes of her author.
Which leads me to the strongest impression I have of this book. It evolves. It does not read like a formula. It does not do the things that lesser novels often do. As Harold Bloom often remarked about Shakespeare’s plays, the characters within grow, change, throw curve balls our way. They are not “types”.
For such a young author–Nada was published when she was only 24 — the book shows a wisdom beyond her years and characters who live, evolve, surprise, and anger us. That she wrote a novel with echoes from her own life makes it even more poignant for this reader, this new admirer of the artistry of Carmen Laforet.