Sunday, July 3, 2016
David Liss, THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
I'm a sucker for a book that takes me to the seedier portions of mid-eighteenth-century Lisbon. I think *A Conspiracy of Paper* is my favorite of Liss's books, but I enjoyed this one. As a boy of thirteen, Sebastiao flees to save his own life, leaving behind his parents to face the Inquisition; when he returns, years later, he has changed his name and is bent on revenge. But it is complicated at every turn by misinformation and mistaken loyalties. Part of the reason he comes back is to seek out Gabriela, whom he'd loved before he left, only to find that she's married. And, in my favorite scene in the book, she speaks practically, skewering any romantic notion he had of returning and taking up where they left off. She speaks of the kindess shown to her by her husband, and finishes: "So stop pretending we're children. All of that is gone. ... You look at me and do not see what is there, but what you wish to be there." At one point, he says, "There are things more important than revenge"; but I felt like in some ways this scene with Gabriela provides the moral center of the book.