Abyss by Pilar Quintana (Translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman) - review by Patrick Graney

Patrick Graney

Grim Expectations

Abyss

By

World Editions 219pp £12.99
 

Sometimes it takes a child’s perspective to tease out what is really going on in adult relationships. In Colombian writer Pilar Quintana’s Abyss, young narrator Claudia is a precocious observer of her family. Her aunt’s husband, Gonzalo, is having an affair with her mother, while her silent, workaholic father bears the trauma of orphanhood, which is Claudia’s ultimate fear. It is Claudia who realises that the ‘rhinitis’ that saps her mother’s energy is in fact depression. When the family stays in a country house outside Cali, Claudia is quick to understand that the disappearance of one of its former occupants may be linked to her mother’s condition.

Quintana writes with a precision that perfectly suits her narrator: each of her judiciously worded observations balances Claudia’s intelligence with her innocence. No prior knowledge is assumed. What seems at first to be an element of over-explanation turns out to serve a purpose, as when we are told that

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RLF - March