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Set on the eve of the financial crash of 2008, this evocative novel is made up of three stories linked by time and place, and also by the moving, unexpected interactions of a rich cast of characters.
Barcelona Dreaming is narrated, in turn, by an English woman who runs a gift shop, an alcoholic jazz pianist, and a translator tormented by unrequited love, all of whose lives will be changed forever. Underpinning the novel, and casting a long shadow, is a crime committed against a young Moroccan immigrant.
Exploring themes of addiction, racism, celebrity, immigration, and self-delusion, and fueled by a longing for the unattainable and a nostalgia for what is about to be lost, Barcelona Dreaming is a love letter to one of the world’s most beautiful cities and a powerful and poignant fable for our uncertain times.
Three dynamic characters wrestle with the instabilities of love and life in Thomson's shimmering triptych (after Never Anyone but You). Amy, an English woman who moved to Barcelona for marriage and stayed after her separation, aids Abdel, a young Moroccan sex worker after he is raped. They begin an affair, which ends after a racist neighbor tries to prevent Abdel from entering her building. Nacho, an aging, hard-drinking jazz pianist, lives with his girlfriend and son in a suburb of Barcelona. After Nacho meets a renowned soccer player who asks him for Spanish lessons, Thomson ends their story with a crushing curveball. Jordi, a busy translator, befriends a neighbor who confesses to being haunted by a demonic chest of drawers. With seamless prose, Thomson affords an intimate glimpse into the three protagonists' hearts and minds, and several peripheral characters intriguingly appear throughout. Descriptive flourishes, meanwhile, produce a consistent stream of wonderfully odd details, such as the cars left overnight in a garage that seemed "as if they were living things, holding their breath." Throughout, Thomson gracefully ties together themes of longing, love, and the inequities caused by age and race. The result is memorable and moving.