Friday, 2 November 2012

Guernica by Dave Boling

It’s highly frustrating that the first post I’ve managed in several weeks is from a dud, but I’ve had a run of bad luck with books in the past month, partly my own fault, partly the choice of reading groups. Well, that’s the way it goes.

Guernica is the back story to the terrible dive bombing raid that the Luftwaffe perpetrated on the Basque town of the same name. Picasso’s most famous painting is a vision of the hell that took place there, so it’s a shame that a novel based on the atrocity and the work it inspired is such a mess of hackneyed prose and clichéd characterisation.

Even so, there are moments of diversion. The heroine’s dance on top of a wine glass during a traditional Basque dance is lively enough, and took my mind off the fact that there are still over 200 pages to go at this point:

Miren alone was the focus of the next dance, and cheers rose when she gathered a glass off a nearby table, filled it with wine, and placed it in the middle of the dance area. To a quickening beat, she stepped lightly on all sides of the glass. Without looking down, she stepped over it and beside it, side to side, front to back, barely missing it as her feet wove an intricate pattern. The breadth of her skirts at all times impeded her vision of the glass, making her avoidance of it an act of unfathomable precision. Then, impossibly, she rose and seemed to hover before gently landing atop the glass, one slipper on each side of the lip. And she was off again, levitating, flitting on each side, and then once more leaped back onto the glass, alighting softly with bent knees. Miguel was stunned to watch a girl so feathery and deft that she could dance on the lip of a wine glass. It was not stemmed crystal or a delicate flute, but it was nonetheless glass, and she danced so joyfully atop it, oblivious to the possibility that it could shatter beneath her. She not only didn’t break the glass but didn’t spill a drop of wine, either.A final leap, on and off, coincided with the last bar of music, and a greater cheer echoed across the courtyard. Accepting the applause with a deep curtsy, Miren retrieved the wineglass and drained the deep-red contents in a single gulp. She saluted the cheering crowd with the empty glass and licked her lips in theatrical enjoyment of the wine.

It’s a real feat and Miguel is suitably impressed:

“How could you possibly dance on a glass?” Miguel asked before she could speak. “Well, first you have to get a very strong wine,” Miren said.

Now there’s a thought...

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