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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gripping! Complex!

What We Become: A Novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte


In the first three pages or so I was a tad confused. I felt detached, disoriented even. As I should! I was crossing the Atlantic bound from Lisbon to Buenos Aires--ar least the characters I was about to become totally engaged with were. As I read on I became absolutely fascinated with them all. Max, I envisage as an aging Pierce Brosnan type, suave and sophisticated harbouring the faint memory of a rougher beginning. As we go between Max's past and present, between his coming to know Mecha onboard the luxury liner where he works as a dancer, and their last meeting, the threads are electrifyingly taut. The tango discussions between Mecha's husband, Armando de Troeye (a famous composer), Mecha, and Max are robust and heady laced as they are with the undercurrent of explicit yet restrained sexuality. De Troyeye is seeking to compose a new piece, a tango, as part of a bet with another composer. This is the connection between the three that becomes a catalyst for all that follows. 
The interplay between Mecha and Max over the years is puzzling, yet riveting. I found it hard to put 'What We Become' down. The language is vivid. One is there in Buenos Aires, in the old tango places, reeking with an edge of danger, smoke and complex sexuality. You feel the tensions in Nice, as Italy is becoming a fascist state, and then later in Sorento where things come full circle, Max and Mecha meeting once more. 
The story in told in those three places across three times, constantly changing between them.
1928 onboard a cruise ship bound for Buenos Aires where Max and Mecha first meet.
1937 in Nice where Max is dragged into a fascist connection.
1996 in Sorento. The Cold War is still a memory and the Russian chess champion, complete with KGB entourage, is playing an important match here. Mecha's son is involved. Once again intrigue and danger come into play, a signature of Mecha and Max's passionate relationship.
The complexity that is Mecha is slowly revealed, although the layers of who she really is never fully unveiled. As this happens we get a better glimpse of de Troyeye, and of the dark areas of Mecha's relationship with him.
Substantive and intriguing, highly personal, with some wonderful twists and subtleties. a treat!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

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