Pineiro, Claudia - 'Thursday Night Widows' (translated by Miranda France)
THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS is the first book of Argentinian author Claudia Pineiro's to be translated into English and I hope that there's plenty more to come.
A few pages into the THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS we are told that there are three bodies in the swimming pool of the most desirable house in the Cascade Heights Country Club (ie a gated housing estate). It's a Thursday in September 2001, and as usual three of the neighbours in The Cascade have joined El Tano (the informal leader of the estate) for food, film and drink, leaving their wives, the "Thursday night widows" behind. This Thursday however, Virginia's husband Ronie returns early in a strange mood and a subsequent accident has him rushed off to hospital. The story then goes back a few years and introduces the many families that have moved to The Cascade and the fortunes that have beset them (usually bad) over the years. The point of view is often Virginia's but also other named members of the community contribute and sometimes it's an unidentified resident narrating.
Gradually all the information we've gleaned about the families starts to form a whole and possibilities come to mind as to what might have happened at El Tano's home.
Despite the lack of criminal activity in this book, I loved reading the THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS. It held my interest with its gossipy tone and incidental humour - a lot of what the well-heeled residents think and say is ironically amusing eg:
The river that crosses hole fifteen was here before we arrived. But we purified it. Now it's a more turquoise green, thanks to water treatment, and the introduction of certain algae which keep the ecosystem aerated. The fish that were there before the purification have died. They were undistinguished fish, a sort of bream, brownish-coloured.
But their attitudes also include casual racism and discrimination, such as a servant not being allowed to bring food out to the guests as she was deemed too ugly.
THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS takes a long look at the privileged and their lifestyle, living 30 miles away from the city and who need armed security men to protect them from their poverty stricken neighbours. What's also interesting is seeing Argentina from an insider's point of view as little news items are dropped in through the narrative. I recommend this book heartily but be aware that it's more Desperate Housewives than CSI.
Karen Meek, England
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