This review has also been aired on 90.1 KUER FM.
by Betsy Burton
The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story, Joan Wickersham
With Valentine’s Day just past, what better activity than to contemplate love in its various incarnations? And at present there’s no better way to do so than in the pages of Joan Wickersham’s elegant new book of short stories. By turns heartbreaking and enchanting, The News from Spain is at once a collection of tales and a clutch of variations on a single theme—love. Seldom if ever has there been a more perceptive, witty, complex, or true examination of that subject than this septet of remarkable stories. Each explores love, yes, but in varied forms—that of spouses and of lovers, but also of parents and children, of teachers and students, of colleagues and of caregivers. In quick scenes, brief sentences, trenchant dialogue Wickersham evokes lifetimes of understanding and misunderstanding, yearning, betrayal, astonishment and wry acceptance. She compels and enchants the reader in the process.
The structure of the book as a whole, while centered on love, is tied together in witty thematic stitchery by the recurring phrase, the news from spain, repeated in each tale in a different context. And whether said news comes via a sea shell, the newspaper, a letter, a classroom, a conversation, or the cinema, people in these extraordinary stories are alternately blinded, blind-sided, and bemused as they fall in and out of love, create love, let love die, betray love, lose love, find love in unlikely places.
Wickersham’s talent is breathtaking. She’s imaginative, surprising, witty, and her prose is quick, elegant, elusive. She gives Alice Munro a run for her money in The News from Spain—no small feat. I’d never read anything by her before, but I will now. In fact, I can hardly wait!
Joan Wickersham is the author of two previous books, most recently The Suicide Index, a National Book Award finalist. an op-ed column that appears regularly in the Boston Globe and essays and reviews in the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune; and National Public Radio. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.