Today I bring you a new book that’s very special to me. I read it and reviewed it in Spanish a while back and have known the author, Estrella Cardona Gamio, who has been writing for many years, and her sister Concha, who looks after the promotional and technical side of their small and independent publishing company, from early on in my publishing journey. After chatting about it, they decided to ask me to translate it, and now, it’s available in English. I share the translated version of my review too, so you can get some idea of why I liked it so much. And if you want to read more about the author and her views on her novel, you can check this interview in Lit World Interviews.
Letter to Charo de Estrella Cardona Gamio (Autor), Olga Núñez Miret (Traductor)
LETTER TO CHARO is not a novel like all the rest in its presentation. For starters, it is an epistolary novel, a genre that was fashionable in other eras and that has left us works like DANGEROUS LIAISONS to mention a particularly fine example. It’s a very interesting genre because through its structure, and in the first-person, intimate stories are narrated that slowly reveal the most closely guarded secrets of its characters.
In LETTER TO CHARO, the reader will find the story of two friends who’ve known each other from childhood and carried on being friends through the years and the distance when the husband of one of them, for work reasons, has to move to London with his family. Throughout the years they exchange letters, until a certain day when an event that has nothing to do with either of them, the death of a famous Italian cinema actor, Marcello Mastroianni, sends them on a trip down memory lane unearthing confidences that had been hiding for decades and discovering two people who are complete strangers to each other.
Another peculiar characteristic of this novel is that the letters that are exchanged between the protagonists open with one dated the same day when I first started writing LETTER TO CHARO, and, the intervals between the letters are authentic. The truth is that I wrote the novel as if its protagonists were dictating it to me.
In this work, romantic and sentimental, you’ll find various degrees of love revealed in detail: tenderness, nostalgia, rivalry, egotism, envy, jealousy and uncontrollable and wild passion. You should not miss it, follow my advice.
I have tried to respect the style of the author and the sense of urgency and closeness of the correspondence written to (mostly) those close to us, which follows the style of our speech and the wanders of our mind, rather than grammar rules or best-practice when writing formal texts. I have adapted casual expressions but have always tried to maintain the meaning and the spirit of the original.
With regards to titles of books and/or movies mentioned in the book, I’ve adopted the ones more commonly used, although sometimes different editions or movies in different countries might be known by different titles. I have added only a few parenthetical notes where I felt that the general reading public might not be familiar with the term and it is fundamental to follow the gist of the story.
I am very grateful to the author and to her sister for giving me the opportunity to translate this short novel that I fell in love with as a reader.
Here my own review translated:
This is an epistolary novel collecting the letters exchanged between two friends that know each other from youth but have been living in two different countries for years (one in Barcelona, Spain, and the other one in London, UK), and other letters of those close to them (sometimes characters that are important to the story, like Charo’s husband, Antonio, others that are minor characters, like Francis, her friend’s son), and even from characters whose relationship with the two friends is tangential at best (like the last letter, that adds a totally external perspective to the situation). Nowadays, when real letters are falling from grace, it’s wonderful to bring them back and realise how many things can be said (and left unsaid) using that form of social interaction.
In the novel’s description, the author reveals to us her creation process. The date of the first letter is the actual date when she began to write the story and perhaps that explains partly why these letters feel so vivid and authentic. Although the novel is short, we get to know the characters (even though sometimes our impressions might be wrong), through their exchanges with others, through what they tell us, and what they don’t. Love stories, stories of lost loves, dreams, mistakes, misunderstandings, and the day to day of living together that each person experiences differently. Friendships that aren’t so and routines that we don’t quite know why we keep going.
I loved the characters that feel familiar and recognisable but not because of their conventionality. The letters and the style of each one reflect perfectly the personalities of the characters and the differences between them. And the references to other eras and situations make us share in the atmosphere and the experiences of the protagonists. The author proves that long expositions and pages and pages of descriptions are not necessary to develop not only a story but even two lives.
I read a comment where the reader said the novel had reminded him of ‘Cinco horas con Mario’ (Five Hours with Mario by Miguel Delibes) and it’s true that some of the letters felt like confessions, be it because they aren’t sent to the addressee (and therefore become letters to oneself) or because the author of the letters explains things to a reader that perhaps exists only in his or her imagination (because the real recipient is not the person they have created in their minds).
I recommend it to all those who enjoy a fresh read, brief and of great quality, with characters that will make you think. I am sure that from now on I’ll always remember this novel every time I watch one of Marcello Mastroianni’s movies.
Thanks to Estrella Cardona Gamio and her sister for giving me this chance, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!