I pulled the titles to include in this blog series from a variety of sources: SFF lists, lesfic lists, LGBTQ lists. I don't exactly remember where I turned up Cristina Sánchez-Andrade's The Winterlings. From the blurb, it could have been any of several. The description sounds as if it's being pitched as a "literary novel" (in the genre sense) but I most likely found it recommended in an SFF context.
Galicia, Spain’s northwest region, in the 1950s. After a childhood in exile, two sisters return to their grandfather’s cottage for the first time since his shocking murder during the civil war. “The Winterlings” try to keep their dark secrets buried and carve out a peaceful existence in Tierra de Chá, an idyllic village host to a cast of grotesque but charming characters: a powerful psychic, a madman who believes he is a bus, a woman who refuses to die and the obese priest who heaves up a steep hill each day to give her last rites, a cross-dressing dentist who plants the teeth of the deceased in his patients’ mouths. Tension mounts when the sisters, once united by their passion for Hollywood cinema, compete for the chance to stand in for Ava Gardner in the nearby filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Meanwhile, a mutual suspicion develops between the mysterious sisters and the eccentric villagers: Why have the women returned, and what are they hiding? What perverse business arrangement did the townspeople make with their grandfather, and why won’t they speak of his death? Enchanting as a spell, The Winterlings blends Spanish oral tradition, Latin American magic realism, and the American gothic fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson into an intoxicating story of romance, violent history, and the mysterious forces that move us.
Sometimes categorization of books can be confusing...or even feel misleading. Readers rarely approach a book without a "reading protocol" (to use Samuel Delany's term). Should The Winterlings be read through a fantasy lens? A magical realist lens? Or simply as a realistic story that may surprise you? The Alpennia novels have a tendency to confound expected reading protocols, whether the reader expects a romance novel, a lesfic novel, a swashbuckling fantasy, or a tale of magic. Mother of Souls breaks even the tenuous expectation of a romance plot that the previous books offered. If I could advise readers, I'd beg them to read Alpennia simply as stories of complex human beings, seeking purpose, connection, and community. If you find love, magic, and adventure, consider it a bonus.
The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.