My regular readers may have noticed I missed a review last week. You may also have noticed that I am now reviewing a book that was not scheduled until December. The reason for both is that my mother-in-law died a few weeks ago and my plans have had to change. As a result I am not in the Czech Republic where the books for November are sitting on a bookshelf awaiting my arrival (now scheduled for January). In addition I don't feel I can give last week's planned book Of Bees and Mist a fair review, as the antagonist in that book is a totally evil mother-in-law. I think I would have found this a problem had I not been mourning the death of a lovely lady, but as I was the problem was insurmountable.
So I have been reading Berta La Larga instead. The comparison with Of Bees and Mist couldn't be greater. Human beings are shown lovingly with their aspirations, their faults and their strengths. The book focuses on the life of a small village in the middle of nowhere and its people's rivalry with the inhabitants of a neighbouring village. Berta falls in love with Jonas, the postman from that other village, and so the scene for a Romeo and Juliet story is set. But this is no tragedy. The story, even though some of the main characters die during the course of the war between the two villages, is often humorous.
Canals draws a picture of a very real village in which magical things happen, but people don't always realize - contrary to the Goodreads description no one links the weather to Berta's moods, not even Berta herself. The portraits of the various village characters and their petty squabbles - from the old woman who keeps everyone awake with her singing, the mayor's wife who never stops talking, the priest with very attractive legs and even the donkey - will all be familiar to anyone living in a small community. I was reminded of Gabriel Chevallier's satirical novel Clochemerle. Canals' style is witty and light of touch. The narrative is interspersed with comical illustrations, such as a picture of Berta's body with pointing hands indicating which parts which Jonas is allowed to touch and which not, and ends with a series of amusing appendices, which had me giggling.
This is a delightful book, clever in its simplicity.