A couple of weeks ago I found myself rummaging around the new book section at my public library’s Central Branch when I came across what I thought was a novel set in Spain by a Spanish author. Reading the novel’s brief description, I could see the setting for The Sleeping World takes place two years after the death of dictator Francisco Franco as the nation begins taking its first shaky steps toward democracy. Duly intrigued, I grabbed it along with another book and headed for the automated check-out kiosk. Later that night, I began reading it. Pleasantly sucked in at first, I soon realized this was one of those novels I wasn’t enjoying as much as I’d hoped, but thankfully it had enough good things going on that I continued to read it. Oh well, sometimes that’s the way it is with debut novels.
Written not by a Spaniard, but actually an American born and raised in the Midwest, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes’ first-time novel follows the adventures and misadventures of a small group of college age friends, the focus of which is Mosca, a rebellious young woman whose parents and brother were murdered by Spain’s Fascist security forces. Drifting from protest to protest and dingy bar to dingy bar across Spain, Mosca’s small band of misfits passionately yet aimlessly stumble about fueled by a steady diet of drugs, alcohol, Marxist-flavored radical politics and early punk music.
While some reviewers and readers enjoyed Fuentes’ novel, I on the other hand merely found it OK. I enjoyed the author’s glimpse into the turmoil of early post-Franco Spain but overall The Sleeping Years was not a big hit with me. On the other hand, I take comfort in knowing this is Fuentes’ first novel and as a novelist, she shows considerable promise. Therefore, with that in mind I look forward to her next novel which I’m betting will be much more to my liking.