by Paul Vincent
Category: Fiction / Literary
275 pages; ISBN: 1844262553
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman
British author Paul Vincent’s latest novel, Free, centers around a story of a young man, Sal, who falls madly in love with a dark haired woman with blond eyebrows, Gabrielle, at a pavement café in Northern Spain.
After a brief courtship, the two decide on marriage, which shortly takes place, after both move from their homes in England to the Basque Country of Spain.
Very soon thereafter, Sal receives the first of a series of eight harrowing and threatening letters, the first of which states: “Dear Sal: I will send just 8 letters to you. By the 8th letter, you will either love me or I will have killed you. You know me.”
It turns out that the sender of the letter is the former lover of Gabrielle, Alex Lawrence, who claims to be still married to Gabrielle, and he is going to win her back at any cost, even if it means murder. In fact, Alex presents a false marriage certificate to Sal, when they first personally meet up. He further goes on to inform Sal that he still loves Gabrielle, and if he cannot have her, no one else can, even though, as he claims, she is deceitful, an impostor and a gold digger, who will fleece Sal out of every penny he has.
The plot effectively takes on all of the elements of a compelling black comedy, notably the author’s sense of the absurd, and the themes of death, personal misfortune and even morbid subjects as the hideous murder of Sal’s working assistant, Olaia, and the twice kidnapping of a baby, Sal and Gabrielle’s daughter, Amy.
Cleverly mixed into the plot is the question of Gabrielle’s sometimes-rash behavior, bordering on the insane, prodding the readers to ask who is she? After all, Sal had known very little about her background prior to their marriage. Is she in fact the stalker and the sender of the letters and did she kidnap their baby girl? Is what Alex told Sal true? Interesting enough, even the ending of the story leaves the reader still pondering these same questions.
To even more complicate the plot, political elements are also introduced, when the reader learns that Sal’s father was from the Basque Country and his mother was from Ireland.
Could it be that Ireland’s IRA or Spain’s ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna- a Basque fatherland and liberty group who wish to create an independent homeland in Spain’s Basque region.) are somehow mixed up into the plot.
Most significantly, throughout the reading of the novel, readers are constantly propelled to continually read on through this exciting, somewhat chilling, and even comical narrative. Vincent fully grasps what black comedy is all about. He is an expert in never losing sight of its elements in a way that will no doubt prove to be satisfying to fans of this genre, as well as those who are not familiar with black comedy.
The above review was contributed by:
NORM GOLDMAN EDITOR OF BOOKPLEASURES
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