I don't read literary fiction that's much concerned with realism very often. I usually like a bit of the absurd, the surreal, or the fantastical mixed in. The "straight n' serious
" stuff usually isn't for me. So, when I was asked to read this book in exchange for an honest review, I was a bit hesitant. But I'm glad I took a chance on it.
This is a story about the down and out, and I'm generally pretty fond of some grit and grime. Martin does a good job of getting inside the head of a 19 year-old runaway named Rudy and exposing thought processes and observations that are often embarrassingly earnest, wildly idealistic, and excruciatingly naive. Rudy thinks a lot of the same shit I was thinking when I was that age, the kind of shit that I can only shake my head in wonder at now.
Rudy isn't a sympathetic character, but he's a compelling one. I wanted to keep reading to find out where he would end up. But my lack of sympathy for Rudy was something that kept nettling me while I was reading this. After being sexually assaulted (and having his passport stolen) in a strange land where he can't speak the language, Rudy steadfastly refuses to reach out to his family for help. The reason why he never reaches out to his family for help is never explained. There is no hint at an abusive home life or anything of the sort. It just seems like he'd rather live on the street and risk starvation than simply swallow his pride.
Another thing that nettled me a bit was that it was never clear what language Rudy spoke (and I believe this was intentional). He visits Spain on a lark and it's made plain that he can't speak Spanish and that he only knows 50 or so words in English, yet it seems that he's able to communicate with a good number of street people (and the police) without much difficulty. This wasn't a huge issue. But I do think the vagueness of Rudy's native language served to over-complicate things, and it became somewhat distracting for this reader.
Aside from these two nettling bits, I found Escaping Barcelona
pretty engrossing. The writing is smooth and draws you through the story. I read it in just a few sittings. Martin does a fantastic job evoking a sense of place and the people who inhabit the streets of Barcelona. It reeked of verisimilitude. I'd be surprised to find that the author hasn't spent a good deal of time in that city.
This book is the first part of a trilogy called Mad Days of Me
. I've already decided to pick up the next one in the series. I'm still pretty curious about where Rudy will end up.