We all have our go-to authors; those we place on auto-buy. Those who will bring calm, an escape into a different world far away from daily struggles. Predictability, perhaps; the comfort of knowing, this is probably going to be a book you will love. They do not have to be the most accomplished writers, the most crafted, the most popular. They just have to be those who bring you joy, consistently. And Silvia Moreno-Garcia is that author to me.
She has recently announced that a new novel titled The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is to be published soon. I have not read the classic The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (1896), nor watched the movie of the same name (1996) nor particularly remember Doctor Moreau from the James Bond film Spectre (2015) – I believe I fell asleep watching the movie at the movie theatre with then fiancé, now Mr. Hubby. But we all know what the book is about, right? Sort of. Maybe. I think we might.
That exciting piece of news got me thinking about my favorite book by Silvia Moreno Garcia which I read last September (only now realized, I never reviewed): Untamed Shore. Catchy title, catchier plot.
See, Viridiana, a young free-spirit-of-a-woman feels very much stuck in her little town in Baja California (Mexico). It’s a sleepy town, same old faces every day and the most exciting thing to ever happen is to watch fishermen pile dead sharks on the beach. It’s 1979, she’s bored. Terribly bored. Her father was bored too, and he left her with her bitter, re-married, mother. He built a new exciting life in Mexico City, a life that does not include her. And her only escape from the dread of a boring little life in a town that does not make space for her, a town that smothers her dreams at every chance, is to daydream. About Hollywood movies, a charming and handsome man to sweep her away. Like her dad swept her mother away, but with a happier ending. And that is how the days go by.
But it would a boring book if it stayed at that. So we see the sudden arrival of a trio of wealthy gringos. An old man looking for a quiet place to write, his beautiful (and much younger) wife and her blond and handsome and classic-Hollywood-charm brother. Viridiana lands a gig as a translator and moves in with them for the summer. And that is when things go wrong. As you would expect from a noir, these three strangers are full of secrets and quickly trouble comes chasing after them.
A beautifully slow-paced and thrilling story lead by a smart, strong woman, not your typical girl down the block, yet very relatable. Naïve and a day-dreamer, yet with a mind to ask the right questions and make some dangerous choices.
Viridiana feels herself in a movie, immerses herself in day-dreams to escape the boredom and stiffness of daily life (there was no library or bookshop in town, by-the-way). She makes movies in her head of what life will bring. So the fact that we are not encountering deeply complex characters is in tune with the story. Characters fall into their Hollywood-esque (or Mexican soap opera) roles: the young and beautiful (but secretly evil) gold-digger wife; rich, old and ill-tempered husband; the handsome and mysterious love-interest. The smart and beautiful small-town girl who dreams of an out, to be taken away by her handsome prince. Simple, engaging and a window to the North of Mexico once-upon-of-time, a story that I would go back to again and again.