This is the shortest book I’ve read in a long time – 87 pages of economic, spare,  prose, in two parts, but very powerful.

In a house, on a dusty plain, a man and his son are killed and  his daughter survives through the mercy of one of the “executioners”. 52 years later the child, now a middle-aged woman meets the man who spared her life.

The first part of the book is driven and compelling telling the story of two murders and why the killers sought revenge. At first  the location could be almost anywhere, Italy,( the author is Italian) Sicily, South America, but we learn it is Spain, and the timeframe is vague, apart from the fact that cars and machine guns are available to the killers.

At the point of execution we learn that this is probably Spain immediately after the Civil War – but I feel the author wanted to give a vagueness to the story, to suggest it could be anywhere where war and the violence associated with it, particularly civil war ( in its many forms) sparks the need for revenge and resolution. 
There are images of terrible violence almost thrown into a paragraph as a sideline; a couple of sentences depicting horrible scenes tossed in amongst the narrative,  leaving images in the mind as the story moves on, and suggestions of reasons for revenge. 

In the second part  a woman approaches an elderly man, selling lottery tickets in a glass booth, in a shopping mall. and the story unfolds of what happened to the girl.  They discuss revenge and retribution, the man is reduced to tears and yet the woman is unmoved. We learn what has happened to the three killers and what has happened to the girl – but are given two viewpoints – which to believe?

I found the second part of the book less satisfying, lacking the immediacy and drive of the first. The spare sentences seem less appropriate and I was not convinced by the penultimate act of the story (which I won’t describe in case anyone chooses to read this book from this review) although the ending was “right”.

The realist in me wanted to be able to “place” the action geographically and historically. I think the writer made a mistake in giving us some information on location and time, which suggests a particular set of circumstances and parties to those circumstances. The story would lose nothing and could have gained much by suggesting it applied to any area of conflict.

This book could have been terrible with a bad translation, thankfully, it is very good and will take up less than an hour of your time. 

I re-read it just before my reading group meeting and feel it loses it’s power on a second reading as the story’s drive is reliant on the reader’s lack of knowledge.  However you do gain an appreciation of how well it is written. 
The icon of the book’s cover is a beautiful image of a child curled up, which is a significant theme of the book.

At the group meeting I spotted the writer’s first book ” Silk” on the library sales shelves and whisked it away for 30p!

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