The TripFiction Book Club July/August ’19 reads ‘A Summer Reunion’ by Fanny Blake
Novel set in Northern Spain (a homage to Ernest Hemingway)
27th November 2017
The Last Fiesta by Andy Rumbold, novel set in Northern Spain.
It’s a homage to Ernest Hemingway’s Fiesta, both tales focusing on the running of the bulls at Pamplona. Rumbold makes full use of the years he spent living in the region to add authenticity to his depictions of the setting as a group of old friends set off on a short holiday through the Basque country, the Picos de Europa and finally to Pamplona, bringing to life with light brushstrokes a region of exceptional if scarred beauty.
The plot is simple. Meet Dan Willis, a wayward drunk, his life in tatters, living a gritty ex-pat life in Santander. He receives an unexpected call from an old school friend, Billy, a Gulf-war veteran who wants to pay him a visit. Dan invites two other school friends, Eddy and Simon, along for the ride. The mix proves to be disastrous.
As the men journey from location to location en route to Pamplona, antagonisms emerge. Both Billy and Simon are deeply troubled and Dan has no idea why. Simon, successful in advertising, seems to have nothing to complain about, whereas Billy has been through the travails of war. But it isn’t their distinct pathways in adulthood that are the cause of so much animosity.
This is a story that races along from start to finish, unhampered by deep reflection, complexity or detailed backstory, although it does provide a distinctly realistic sketch of the seedy hedonistic life lived by young British ex-pats. The narrative picks up about halfway through, when intrigue builds as Billy’s past unravels and a secret is finally revealed. When the men reach Pamplona the tension mounts, culminating in a dramatic ending.
The Last Fiesta is ideal for those who like clean prose and engaging with the theme of youthful masculinity and all of its reckless bravado and dare-devil spiritedness, a theme that Hemingway himself was both fascinated and bothered by. This is not a story for those opposed to the running of the bulls, and the scenes in Pamplona are graphic at tim es. An enjoyable, if lightweight read.
Isobel Blackthorn for the TripFiction Team
Isobel is an Australian novelist, writing across a range of genres and most recently The Drago Tree, set in Lanzarote (and she chats to us about the island on this link). Do follow her on Twitter and via her own website
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