This Too Shall Pass | Author: Milena Busquets | Rating: 8/11 |
Love and death are arguably the most universal threads in all of art, and are certainly the prime ingredients in any comedy or tragedy. They also happen to be the central themes of Milena Busquets’ latest novella, This Too Shall Pass, an unconventional love story of sorts between a mother and daughter, but also between that daughter and herself.
Set in the Gatsby-esque whirlwind of the idle elite on holiday, This Too Shall Pass tells the story of Blanca, a middle-aged woman struggling to accept the reality of her own mortality in the devastating wake of her mother’s death. Still trying to make sense of her grief, Blanca leaves the bustle of Barcelona, Spain for her family’s vacation home in Cadaqués. Accompanying her are a cadre of well-meaning friends and family members, including her two ex-husbands, the married man Blanca is currently having an affair with, and a handsome, mysterious stranger from her mother’s funeral. Blanca attempts to recapture the frenzied, idyllic bravery of her youth, taking refuge in alcohol, pot, old routines with old friends, sex, and the glorious seaside sunshine of Cadaqués before finally realizing that she has been changed forever, and that it is time to say farewell to the past.
Charming and witty, Busquets’ novella doesn’t necessarily have much that’s new to say about either love or death, but the subject is treated in a manner that’s both frank and poetic, set in the style of a personal memoir making it easy to read and even easier to relate to. One cannot help but fall in love with Cadaqués, and there’s plenty about Blanca’s nostalgia over her golden youth to strike a familiar chord in Busquets’ readers. If anything, the tale might be a tad too idealistic; Blanca flits between new liaisons with her ex-lovers from night to night, seeking love as a means to banish her sorrow and, all the while, peace reigns under a roof where utter chaos should be. For the most part her female friends look on with amusement and, luckily, there’s always someone on hand to keep an eye on Blanca’s two sons. Characters are sometimes hard to keep track of: they appear and disappear again, much like at an actual party. And in spite of the tumultuous nature of Blanca’s emotional and physical life, every thread is tied up neatly in the end. In spite of all this, the heart of the narrative remains genuine and raw. It’s the process of Blanca’s grief which is central – not necessarily the ways in which she strives to overcome it – and that grief is full of the universal feelings of anger, confusion, sorrow, and loss. Blanca’s state of mourning keeps readers anchored in the whirlwind plot and it makes Blanca a relatable character in otherwise dubious circumstances.
This Too Shall Pass is the story of a woman caught in that singular space between the ‘young’ and the ‘old’ and, as such, will appeal most to anyone who similarly finds themselves trapped in that particular No Man’s Land. Heartfelt and full of colorful characters, this book about the golden days of bygone summers is a perfect way to kick off this year’s summer reading list.