September 15th, 2013
Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona by Henry Martin
I started this book a few weeks back. I was finally able to finish it this morning, so I figured I'd just dive in. I will admit first and foremost, literary fiction is not a go to for me. I obviously enjoy it when well written, but perhaps I am not the best judge, so I hope that my opinion will guide anyone interested in traditional "Literary Fiction."
Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona follows the exploits of Rudy, a foreigner in Barcelona, Spain. His nationality is left ambiguous, all that's known about him is that he has suffered a heinous crime, and everything and everyone appears to be keeping him from going home. Rudy finds himself homeless, without a passport, and is forced to do what he must to survive.
I suppose I can discuss the difference between the things that I enjoyed, then afterwards, the things that confused me a bit.
Things that I liked:
I found the world-building of Spain quite refreshing. I've never been, but a pen-pal(whom I recently met in Los Angeles after studying abroad)of mine is originally from Barcelona. The author(in my opinion) did a great job of painting a picture of the settings, especially Plaça Reial, a common meeting ground in the story. I even looked up pictures from this place, and it seemed pretty accurate. I'm typically so wrapped up in an imaginary world created for me in books, that stopping to notice the settings in a world that actually exists was cool.
I didn't find any part of the book predictable. While i'll address some things in the points that caused me confusion, I typically look for points where I say "I knew that would happen." I didn't have any moments with that point in the book. There was also plenty of conflict. What is a story without conflict? Conflict is by far, one of the single most defining points in a book. Conflict tends to bring out character. When a character is given a choice, whether good or bad, it lets the reader make a decision about the character's choices. There was one moment(I don't like to leave spoilers in my reviews, so you'll just have to read it) in which my opinion of Rudy completely changed, just due to the choice he was forced to make. It was literally his behind, or another one's(in his case, three other ones). While it didnt benefit him as far as his safety was concerned, in my opinion he made the right choice. Perhaps not the smartest choice, but character is revealed through conflict.
I think it was unique in the way his national origin is withheld from the story. He's obviously White, as he at one point mentioned, while with a friend, "that they were the only white guys there", but I assume this was to steer away from his origin having any significance over the plot.
Also, from my pennie(pen-pal)I know that Spain is somewhat diverse. They have big North African populations, so point on that one for doing the research for that. I didn't however see a big Chinese population. This isn't anything bad, I just thought there might be more, considering they were often in areas with big tourists and Im familiar with Spain having Chinatowns(though this is not from experience, this is from what a native has shared with me).
There was a lot of Diversity in the book. Other Spaniards, Colombian, Romanian, German, Irish and North African(Arab) and I think East/West African? I wasn't extremely clear on one character, as he wasn't given a name or a backstory, so I wasn't too sure on his character. My only complaint was that there was only one real female main character. I didn't find them unrealistic, but what I will say that with the Romanian character, I was a little uneasy with him being referred to an "gypsy."Im sure to the average person, this isn't offensive. But in Europe, this is typically a demeaning word to refer Romanians to. Just saying.
I find that the cover and title do fit the book quite well, so no issues with that. Character names? I thought most of the names were cool except Jorge XD His character was Colombian, and I know its a common name, but was there no other name but Jorge to choose from? XD It's not really something I take issue with, I just thought the name was a bit boring in comparison to Colombians I know.
Things I was indifferent about:
Rudy's narration. He seemed like an unreliable narrator. Im not sure whether this was intentional or not, and being an unreliable narrator is definitely not a bad thing. It just means I found his POV at times compromised. This could have been a side effect to the way Barcelona had treated him, but to me, he just came off as the "unreliable narrator."
The main character at times talked a lot. At times, too much. Mind you, his character was surrounded by antagonistic forces at every side, so perhaps he didn't have the desire to entertain his company. There were just pacing issues when it came to his POV. It often made his POV unclear at times, and I was trying very hard to understand him better.I also thought there were a few times I'd read a word, and "very" or "ish" would be at the end of it. This is often to bring stronger emphasis to a word, but I think that there are stronger words one could use when cornered with the decision to describe some as "very" or "blank-ish." I wont say it's a deal breaker, just something I noticed while reading.
The only strong female character was a Spaniard named Pilar. I found her to be my favorite character. She had her own difficult backstory, and like Rudy was forced to survive with the circumstances given to her. I wasn't exactly happy about Rudy slut shaming her. This is in reference to her sleeping with several characters in the book, one of them very dangerous. In the same situation, who knows what one would do in order to stay alive. I didn't like how Rudy judged her for using what she had to save her own behind.
Overall I will say I enjoyed the book, despite it being a genre I don't normally read. I'd read the sequel, and suggest it for anyone looking for a suspense, tragedy and despair in your typical fiction novel.
Small note: There are sexual situations. I'd hate to not mention that if a reader is sensitive to intimacy in novels.
It's actually 3.25, but I'll lean these little guys toward the 3.5 because I did walk away with a sense of self afterwards.
Im not sure Im qualified to dreamcast!