I’ve enjoyed several reading challenges this year.I’m not very familiar with Spanish literature so when I saw the challenge I knew I’d do it. But, I also knew I was not up to diving into a classic right now. This Too Shall Pass sounded light enough and relatable enough for my present situation. It was a good pick.
Being forty was never on Bianca’s radar, but it finally hit. Then her beloved mom dies. Her life is in a bit of tailspin. With her two ex-husbands, her married lover, her kids, and a few friends to support her, Bianca heads off to her mother’s home to get away fro a while.
The story is told as a stream of consciousness. It is just the right amount of everything: relationships, conflicts, sex, exotic locale, you name it. I often point out “ick moments” in books–my term for explicit sex. There’s a lot of talk of sex in this one, but not a lot of action. Nonetheless, it belongs in this story. It was not forced in by some apparent p.c. mandate. It’s just who Bianca is–at least at this stage in her life.
“He may be a little younger than me, I realize for the first time with a blend of irrelevance and apprehension. I never consciously used my youth as a weapon of seduction, but neither did it occur to me before to before now that it would come to an end.”
Bianca’s self-absorption, her grand assumption that everyone is as free and lose about relationships is at the heart of it all. She collects, or “curates” in today’s term, a loose-knit family of friends, their boyfriends or lovers, her ex-husbands, her children, her current lover and assumes everyone feels life the same way she does. But her chosen circle is leaving her and she is only just starting to realize it. After a party night, one friend clues her in. One of her ex-husbands takes up with one of her friends but sweetly asks her permission. And, for the first time, she is possibly feeling too old for one of the men to whom she is attracted.
“I think there are certain things that we lose forever. In fact, I think we are more the sum of the things we’ve lost than of the things we’ve kept.”
That party night introduces a stoners’ philosophy discussion. Is love the only thing that makes people or things belong to us? Or do our observations of them also do that? And doesn’t that mean they are never lost to us? Bianca though stoned is certain that some things ARE lost to us. This is part of her trouble with losing her mother and facing the loss of her own youth. Both are just GONE.
“The opposite of death is life, is sex.”
Bianca isn’t just a party girl. She is lonely. She is now lost and lonely. She uses her sex life to try to drown out the loneliness, just as she used it to escape the coming blow of her mother’s death. But now, with her mother gone, she must also face growing up. The principal grown up of her life is gone–no, has left her. While still reeling, she slams into an older, old friend who has never grown up–still parties with much younger people, and she can sense old age, but it is really just the onset of maturity.
I was left feeling Bianca, sans audience would be fine when she returns to her beloved loft in Barcelona and her normal life with just her boys and maybe her mom’s old dog. The stage would be gone for her to play out more drama about herself.
This was a much better book than I thought it would be. I admit, I chose it for the challenge because it was short and sounded light enough for my current quarantine-induced attention span. I was pleasantly surprised. This is also a good choice for Women in Translation Month, going on now.
More great Spanish or Spanish-language literature in translation at Winstonsdad’s Blog.