Kevin Booth paints an expressionist portrait of the Barcelona night in a year of sex, drugs and deception. Told through their own eyes, sensitive Joaquim--whose passion for painting will propel him into the artist's life--and cynical Eduardo--addicted to a nightlife that thwarts his ambition to write--unveil a sexual, dreamlike city, personified by the enigmatic Celia. Shadowy chapters in Spanish history are revealed in this nocturnal world by an extravagant cast of heterogeneous characters.
Despite their violently contrasting natures, Joaquim and Eduardo both fall under Celia's aura. The games they are learning to play will draw all three into conflict--against the backdrop of a city that is also rehearsing a new identity--leading them inexorably towards the truth of Celia's Room.
If you know Barcelona you will find the descriptions and characters completely authentic. I could almost smell the Gothic barrio. I picked this novel up on a Sunday morning, intending only to read the opening salvo to decide whether I liked it enough to take with me on the train to work the next day. I didn't put it down until I'd finished it five and a half hours later. It is gripping, intelligent and deeply sensual but also witty and fast-moving. I found it utterly compelling. ... a city still experimenting after the death of Franco and dictatorship but bound by the memories of religious stricture. Nobody is quite what they seem and his moments of naive joy are cracked open by prejudice, poverty and an undercurrent of menace. It is packed with shady eccentric characters and sharp poetic imagery. There are also passages of almost scholarly historic reference and beautiful expositions of particularly poignant works of art that give the plot a rich cultural context. It's also funny and very very entertaining ... worth reading. And I hope this is an author worth watching out for. - Kate Margam, author of Milch Cow and Poor Kevin. Nothing is quite as it seems. This book rejoices in ambiguity and ambivalence, successfully capturing the zeitgeist of Barcelona in the period when the optimism and openness precipitated by the restoration of democracy in Spain was fading as the ETA terrorist campaign continued to take lives, political corruption was exposed by the uncensored media, and the city began to undergo massive redevelopment for the Olympic Games of 1992. Set mainly in the medieval Ciutat Vella (Old City), occasionally moving out to Camp Nou and the leafier uptown districts, the story unfolds through events narrated by two young men with very different backgrounds, perspectives and prospects. Both are engulfed by a nocturnal social milieu that will be immediately recognisable to anyone who experienced the last days of the notorious Barrio Chino before swathes of it were demolished. Eduardo, a diplomat's son used to a cosmopolitan life of privilege but traumatised by violent loss, is simultaneously dismissive of and drawn to tawdry "lowlife" decadence. Joaquim, escaping a stultifying rural Catalan background and intent on becoming an artist, is easily entranced by flamboyance, and soon exploited to paint and decorate the interior of an aristocratic but dilapidated old mansion inhabited by a colourful cast of exotic characters with shady sources of income. Of these, the most enigmatic is Celia, a beautiful outsider who remains out of focus until the climax. The narrators' depictions of alcohol-driven, drug-fuelled bohemian nights of poetry and song, revolving between bars, after-hours dives and shared flats in the Gothic Quarter, contrast with their personal moments of unease and self-doubt. Misunderstandings amongst the revellers induce mistrust, jealousy, anger and shame. The inaugural house party held in the mansion to celebrate the pagan Vispera de Sant Joan (Midsummer's Eve) brings these tensions to a sharp explosion of revelations and epiphanies. The author's knowledge and love of Barcelona are clear from his vivid descriptions of places, architecture and ambience. There are some lovely turns of phrase, with flashes of poetic imagery, startling similes and curious metaphors. The tone ranges from lightly self-deprecating to deeply philosophical, with some parts written in an almost scientifically disinterested style and others using language so alluring and sensual as to qualify as genuinely erotic, without being pornographic. As a meditation on sexuality, I found Celia's Room insightful and thought provoking. Perhaps more importantly, I enjoyed the story a lot, and at times laughed out loud. This intelligent and entertaining book is fun, and definitely well worth reading! - Francis Barret, literary blogger and long-time Barcelona resident.
Number Of Pages: 254
Published: 9th November 2011
Publisher: ACTAR COAC ASSN OF CATALA
Country of Publication: ES
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24 x 1.47
Weight (kg): 0.38