Some time ago, I began but did not finish Maria Duenas‘s debut novel The Time In Between a sweeping novel set in WWII Morocco. It still sits accusingly on my book shelves. So when I began to read the author’s second novel, The Heart Has Its Reasons, I made a firm commitment to stay with it to the end.
This novel is about a Spanish woman’s heartbroken attempt to pick up the pieces of her world after her husband of twenty years falls in love with another woman. Blanca Perea is the woman in question and her solution is to leave Madrid for California to take on a project aimed at unravelling the life and research papers of an exiled Spanish professor of literature. What she discovers about her own life is at the heart of this novel.
In the novel Duenas develops three storylines: (1) that of Blanca Perea, (2) that of Andres Fontana, and (3) that of Daniel Carter, a student mentored by Fontana. And, of course, these lives interweave in surprising ways.
I loved the beginning chapters as we read of Blanca Perea’s anguish and follow her to the campus of Santa Cecilia in San Francisco. I loved the part where the author takes us back to Fontana’s days as a boy and then a young man in 1930s Spain as unrest and revolution take over that country. Dual timeline stories are a favourite of mine.
However, with the addition of a third timeline – that of Daniel Carter’s early adulthood and his all consuming passion for Aurora Carranza whom he meets during graduate studies in Spain – the story takes on too many threads and the momentum is lost.
And while Duenas provides tantalizing hints of a deep mystery that will be central to the story, the tension doesn’t hold, the mystery isn’t developed enough and the romance between Blanca and Daniel Carter fails to compensate.
Did I read to the end? Yes. Will I return to The Time In Between? I just might because the author writes well, particularly the parts that are historically based.