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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Woman in Darkness

Luisgé Martín

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To purchase Woman in Darkness

Title: Woman in Darkness
Author: Luisgé Martín
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 208 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Woman in Darkness - US
La mujer de sombra - US
Woman in Darkness - UK
Woman in Darkness - Canada
La donna d'ombra - Italia
La mujer de sombra - España
  • Spanish title: La mujer de sombra
  • Translated by Michael McDevitt

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Our Assessment:

B+ : rich, creative exploration of human desire(s)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
ABC . 5/6/2012 J.M. Pozuelo Yvancos
El Cultural . 13/4/2012 Ricardo Senabre

  From the Reviews:
  • "La mujer de sombra es una novela muy dura, una de las más violentas que he leído en mucho tiempo, pero cuya violencia se da sin golpe alguno: es psicológica. (...) La habilidad de Luisgé Martín es haber conseguido que las condiciones de lo horrible no susciten en el lector rechazo frontal al nutrir una buena novela." - J.M. Pozuelo Yvancos, ABC

  • "El autor ha compuesto su novela mediante breves secuencias que permiten en varios momentos elipsis prolongadas de la historia, como todo lo referido a la relación entre Eusebio y Julia hasta su boda. Ha huido así de la excesiva prolijidad que lastraba un tanto la novela anterior y lo ha hecho sin perder un ápice de su ya acreditada escritura, siempre pulcra y precisa" - Ricardo Senabre, El Cultural

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Woman in Darkness is a novel full of assumed and hidden identities: baptized Segismundo (dad was a psychoanalyst ...), one character changes his name to Guillermo; the woman he marries, the American Nicole, reinvents herself as Olivia when she finds herself literally unable to leave Spain. Guillermo takes a lover, Marcia -- knowing: "It is a fake name"; it later emerges that her real name is Julia. Even the central character, Eusebio, repeatedly misrepresents himself -- in the world of online chatrooms (an almost entirely pseudonymous world, in any case) but also, on occasion, beyond, including going so far as to pretend to be Guillermo in letters to 'Marcia' after Guillermo dies in an accident and Eusebio has become Julia's lover.
       Eusebio -- around forty now -- inherited a great deal of money and has always been able do pretty much whatever he wanted in life. He's taken on a variety real jobs -- and performed them ably -- but each only for as long as they could hold his interest, in it always only for the experience. He travels widely. He enjoys himself; his life is: "idle, serene, exciting".
       Eusebio and Guillermo were friends, and before his death Guillermo confided in Eusebio about his affair -- and its unusual sado-masochistic nature. It's a relationship of extremes, Guillermo submitting entirely to her will and commands and Marcia cruelly treating and teasing him. Among the few ground rules Guillermo sets is that she can't leave any marks, since he is married and his wife would notice, but even so she inflicts considerable pain and discomfort on him.
       After Guillermo's death, Eusebio decides to contact the woman and tell her about her lover's death; since he used a fake name (in fact, his real name, Segismundo), Marcia is unlikely to be aware of Guillermo's death. Eusebio finds her -- and the unexpected happens when Julia opens the door: it is love at first sight. He changes tack, and doesn't reveal that he knew Guillermo -- or that Guillermo is dead.
       Eusebio and Julia begin a relationship, and Eusebio is very happy in this situation. But one thing weighs on his mind: where is Marcia ? There's no hint of how Marcia treated Guillermo in Julia's relationship with Eusebio. No wild sex-play, no demands for domination. And Eusebio is concerned about what happened to this secret side of the woman he loves, which she has never revealed or even mentioned to him.
       Eusebio has everything, and with Julia now has the perfect woman in his life, too, They marry and seem happy -- but Eusebio finds it hard to simply accept happiness. Like with the jobs that he dutifully and happily fills, a point comes where he's had his fill. It's not that he has enough of Julia, but rather of the situation. He finds it difficult to simply be happily married. Too many questions gnaw at him -- including about what became of Marcia -- but it's also that he longs for additional experience:

He repeats it to himself again: he is a happy man. But what he feels is panic. Time marches on, vegetables rot. Eusebio longs to stop thinking -- to be mineral. Device, machine, cog -- that is true happiness. He bites into the pumpkin -- it has a sour flavor. His gums are bleeding. Heroism: to taste the life acclaimed by poets, a life of sharpness, of urgency, of rage. To feel another, more morbid happiness -- crime, excess, debauchery.
       Eusebio wealth gives him dangerous freedoms. Not content with his perfect relationship with Julia as it is, he obsessively follows her (cautiously, and in disguise) whenever she goes somewhere on her own, as if hoping to find her betraying him in some way (even as she never is). Not satisfied with mere chat-room chatter, he hires a private investigator to dig into the lives of some of those he encounters there, and he uses what he learns to explore more, on his own terms and to his own ends. His world becomes one of increasing depravity, estranging him from Julia. That redemption can only be found in abasement (and that there's someone out there willing to provide that) doesn't come as too much of a surprise -- though how far Eusebio sinks before it comes to that might be.
       Woman in Darkness is a dark novel of shattered souls and lives. Unspeakable acts are committed -- fairly decorously presented by Martín, yet no less horrifying for that (the novel is emphatically not for the prudish). The English title feels a bit off the mark: it is Eusebio who is, or falls into, darkness (of the blackest sort); the woman -- Julia/Marcia -- is more shadowy figure than one completely obscured.
       This is an uncomfortably well-written novel, the contrast between its tone (and Eusebio's easy life) and the dark realities particularly effective. Death sets the stage early on, with casual mentions of Eusebio having been orphaned by the time he was sixteen, and the losses Nicole/Olivia suffers, the first driving her into Guillermo's arms years earlier, the second ripping her from them. Sexual excess and debasement is also in the air from early on, though Guillermo's death cuts that short. Eusebio's own descent into depravity begins only with temptation -- an underage girl offered to him by her pimp -- which he can still resist, but eventually he can no longer restrain himself, tumbling to the book's inevitable conclusion.
       Woman in Darkness is unsettling, but it's well-crafted and well-written, a disturbingly easy read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 February 2015

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Woman in Darkness: Reviews: Luisgé Martín: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Luisgé Martín was born in 1962.

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© 2015 the complete review

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