Thursday, September 22, 2016

A country's trauma made personal: The Memory Stones by Caroline Brothers

Los desaparecidos, the disappeared. That is the name given to those abducted by the military junta that took control of Argentina during the country’s Dirty War, an event that Australian writer Brothers’ (Hinterland, 2012) second novel renders devastatingly personal.

In 1976, Osvaldo Ferrero, an eye surgeon, must flee Buenos Aires for Paris for his own safety. His younger daughter, Graciela, a carefree, 19-year-old student, goes into hiding; she and her fiancé simply vanish from sight. Then news emerges that Graciela was pregnant.

The story honors the heroism of the mothers and grandmothers of the missing via the experiences of Yolanda, Osvaldo’s wife, who forms alliances with other women in her situation. The first half is tense and dramatic, yet the story becomes truly remarkable later on.

As decades pass, the family, scattered around the globe, continues searching for Graciela and her child while slowly reshaping their lives around their terrible losses. Evocative scenes at a Greek archaeological site emphasize the challenge of uncovering the past, whether it be more than two millennia ago or just two decades earlier.

The Memory Stones will be published in October by Bloomsbury in hardcover ($28, 480pp).  In the UK, it was published back in July by Bloomsbury Circus.  I wrote this review for Booklist's September 1st issue, and it's also my 4th post for the 2016 Australian Women Writers Challenge; I've met my goal to achieve the Miles level!  (I've read two other books and will post those reviews once they appear.)

Because this novel takes place between the '70s and '90s, it'll be categorized with General Fiction in the AWW review database.  What do you think; how far in the past should a novel be set before it's "historical"?

I remember reading this article in the Guardian two years ago so was familiar with the story of the "disappeared," and Brothers' novel brings readers right into this troubled time and the long aftermath.

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