The fifth novel for my 26 Book 2017 Reading Challenge has probably been my most disappointing so far. I read/listened via audiobook to Vlad by Carlos Fuentes, a short novel originally written in Spanish. I had such high hopes for the novel. Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is one of my favorite books due to the grotesque descriptions that are almost beautiful. I was under the impression that this short novel was meant to be a follow-up to the Dracula legend. The basic plot is Yves Navarro and his wife, Asunción, help a new gentleman, Vladimir Radu, set up a home in Mexico City.
While the novel was well written, had vivid descriptions, and caused a deep uncomfortableness to set in at just the right moments, it felt lacking in something. Maybe I expected it to be a retelling of the Dracula story in Mexico City and it really wasn’t? The story focused on Navarro and his relationship with his wife. They had lost a son to the sea. Navarro said they need to move forward and live on. However, Asunción would have drained the sea to discover a body. She never fully recovered from their son’s death. Their individual decisions at the end of the novel echo how well they were or were not able to survive following their son’s disappearance. They had a daughter too. She ended up being an important part of the novel and a foil to the short lived life of their son, but you hardly see her until the little girl until the end. Since the book is from Navarro’s POV, the lack of discussion of his daughter demonstrates that Navarro did not really pay attention to her until he desired to rescue her from the vampire’s clutches. He discussed his wife throughout the novel, but mostly when describing their sex life in great detail. She seemed to be merely an object of his life otherwise consumed by work. Work was the most important thing to Navarro and he had done much to make sure he succeeded in his job as a lawyer.
Overall, it was an intriguing and grotesque story. If you enjoy reading magical realism novels by Latin American authors you would enjoy it. His writing style matches many of the short stories I read in my Spanish classes in college. Latin American storytelling tradition has a beautiful way of incorporating magical realism into its stories, which is probably why I had expected so much from Vlad.