Bookseller novel: “Life when it was ours” by Marian Izaguirre

A book whose foreign language rights were sold before it came to the Spanish bookstores. With La vida cuando era nuestra (“Life when it was ours”) the writer and Spanish philologist Marian Izaguirre (Bilbao, 1951) has made herself known among a wider reading public, even though her literary debut was 20 years ago with Para toda la vida (“For your whole life”) and she has published five more novels since then.

The plot is set in a second-hand bookstore of dreary post-Civil War Madrid. The store is owned by the couple of Matías, a pre-war editor, and Lola, formerly a happy translator. The war robbed them of their former jobs. One day there happens to enter the store an enigmatic Englishwoman that will change their lives. Matías puts a book into the shop’s window and opens it on the first page, with the intention of progressing one page every day so that the customers can read it slowly. It’s a book of memories that Lola has just read to Alice, the Englishwoman, and that transfers them to the Aristocratic England and bustling Paris of the early 20th century, with artists and writers. It reconstructs an epoch’s historic setting that serves as a scene for the development of a bitter-sweet  history full of mystery.

This novel proves Izaguirre’s passion for books and her interest in historical documentation, recreating researched historical sites without overwhelming the reader with boring data. Additionally she plays with an intimate tone.

There is the possibility to take a sneak preview into the Spanish original on her website.

[All information on the novel taken from Carina Farreras’ comprehensive review “Misteri i amor entre llibres” (“Mystery and love between books”), “Culturas”, La Vanguardia, 26 June 2013, p.10]


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