Short novel set in Spain

25th March 2019

Two Sketches of Disjointed Happiness by Simon Kinch, short novel set in Spain.

Short novel set in Spain

This is a simple story of a young backpacker disillusioned with his life. Granville, a privileged American from Madison, Wisconsin, wanders around the Spanish border town of Portbou, throws his cell phone into the ocean after receiving an unwanted text and makes a decision to change his travel plans.

Granville returns to Barcelona, where he buys a train ticket to Seville and sleeps in the station. The following morning, he finds his wallet and laptop are stolen. Realising he still has his ticket and bank card in his pocket, he takes the train and attempts to continue his holiday.

Granville finds work and somewhere to stay. He observes others in cafes, listens to their talk and shies away from any meaningful involvement. Interspersed as the main story progresses is a second narrative – more fantasy or speculation – as Granville ponders what would have happened had he continued on his journey in Porbou and returned to Madison. In Seville, Granville continues to drift through his life, avoiding rather than confronting any issues or crises that come his way.

The plot is driven by romantic rejection. There is no killing an Arab, no existential angst. Instead, Granville’s daily dilemmas are trivial, shallow and largely lacking in consequence. The novel is a portrait of grey, bland indifference, just as the cover suggests.

Sparse on drama, Two Sketches of Disjointed Happiness is a story of a directionless and listless young man filled with ennui. Kinch presents a shallow and markedly numb protagonist going through the motions of the life he chooses. Granville is troubled, yet his melancholy is bland, indifferent and somewhat pathetic, and his concerns are trite. In all, through Granville, Kinch offers a marvelous portrait of millennial self-absorption and meaninglessness.

The writing is impeccable and the sense of place is strong in this short novel – almost a novella – Kinch certainly places his readers in Spain and in Seville from the point of view of an outsider, an observer looking on, not quite fitting in, uneasy and yet accepting of the people he meets. Yet what the reader might anticipate to be an ideal travel fiction read turns out to be anything but, or at least not if the reader is looking for an escape from humdrum existence or is in need of cheering up.

Isobel for the TripFiction team

This Guest Review by author Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel is a prolific Australian novelist. She writes both contemporary/literary, thrillers and dark fiction. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and via her website.

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