Today I’d like to introduce an award-winning* Spanish young adult novel that is yet to be translated into English: La sonrisa de los peces de piedra by Rosa Huertas (Anaya). This was recommended to me some time ago by children’s bookshop, El Búho Lector in Oviedo, and I have to say, it was a great recommendation.
The book follows Jaime who, on the death of his Grandfather, discovers that his mum has kept a secret from him his whole life: the identity of his father. The story takes place in the modern day with Jaime working to uncover the truth, helped by a diary he has found that his mother is writing. The diary entries transport us back in time to Madrid of the 80s, to a period known as “la movida madrileña”, the post-Franco era when Spain was transitioning to democracy.
Website Madrid Uno describes this period of time as follows: “In parts of Madrid the changes were profound and certain parts of the city erupted into a hedonistic and cultural wave of events. Things got wild. Pornography exploded, gays and prostitution, both previously brutally repressed, began to become very visible and there was widespread use of recreational drugs by the youth.” (http://www.madrid-uno.com/society/movida.htm)
It is against this backdrop that Jaime’s mum is writing her story which Jaime now reads, learning things about his mum that he had never imagined, hoping ultimately to discover who his father is. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I loved the suspense and intrigue in the plot. I was hooked pretty much right from the beginning, cringing as Jaime went down the wrong paths yet willing him on to uncover the the truth. I also enjoyed learning about “la movida” through Huertas’ tour of 80s Madrid. The songs mentioned throughout are also backed up with a Spotify playlist, allowing the reader to really experience the book through its music.
*XIV Premio Anaya de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil