Saturday, May 17, 2014
Review: Love, in English by Karina Halle
Title: Love, in English
Author: Karina Halle
Rating: 4 Stars
I finished this at around 1 AM, my tears finally having dried somewhere between those tumultuous ending chapters and the epilogue. Love, In English is a difficult novel to read, if for the very reason that it forces readers to throw out their preconceived notions about infidelity. Nevertheless, despite the fact that this novel threw me far out of my comfort zone, I found myself unable to gain distance from the plot, emotionally at any rate. I became embroiled in Vera and Mateo's love story, almost against my will. While Vera berated herself for being attracted to a married man, I berated myself for mentally encouraging her attraction. You see, this is no simple romantic tale. Vera and Mateo, both in a three-week program in Spain to teach and improve their English respectively, start out as friends. Mateo is an eager and open listener, welcoming news of Vera's short life and, similarly, Vera brings out the best in Mateo, awakening his younger dreams and aspirations which he threw away for his current life - married to a wife he is unhappy with, stuck in a job he doesn't love, and his five-year-old daughter the only bright light in his current existence.
Thus, to see Vera and Mateo become pillars of support to one another, behaving as close friends, it is impossible not to wish for more between them. Especially with that palpable sexual tension simply rolling off the pages. But, as Halle shows us, it isn't that easy. Even after love has been acknowledged, Vera must live with the messy complications of being "the other woman." While Vera is the last person to become a home-wrecker - after all, her own family was torn apart by her father's years-long infidelity - by falling in love with Mateo, she unknowingly becomes one anyway. Although neither Vera nor Mateo set out to do what they did, the fact that it happened - that they cannot find happiness without each other now - is yet another consequence they must deal with. Halle never sugarcoats the difficult decisions or path Vera and Mateo must take, trying to find a way to love despite the ocean in between them and the marriage they wish didn't exist, not to mention the age gap they won't be able to ignore a few years down the line. It's a tough, complicated affair (no pun intended!), full of heart-wrenching emotions. But, I still loved it.
Love, In English made me think for hours after I'd closed its pages, merely because the gray matter this novel wades through is dense. While, granted, there are many "tropes" in this story - aspects that seem similar to other tales - Halle utilizes them in an unconventional method. Despite being a romantic at heart, I did find that the utter despair that befell Vera and Mateo when they contemplated a life apart or a long-distance relationship became a tad bit too over-dramatic. While there is no denying that a long-distance relationship is hard, hard work and such an inconvenience, Vera could come across as being a little too dependent in parts. I thought that the ending for these two characters solved that, though, and was a fitting conclusion to their story. While not a conventional read by any means, I do believe this novel is indicative of Halle's exemplary prose and, most importantly, her grasp of character depths. Needless to say, I will be stalking her backlist in the near future for sure.