If you loved Lost in Translation, you should read this!
I am Spanish and write in Spanish and English, although because I live and work in the UK I do most of my writing in English now. When I read about the subject matter of the book I knew I should read it and I’m happy I did.
You have an English author, Mike Grey, who’s become stuck in a rut writing misogynistic detective novels, that at face value appear not to be worth the paper (yes, paperbacks, not digital) they’re written in. He’s threatened with discontinuation of the series by the publishers but cannot get motivated to change. Then suddenly, luck strikes. A Spanish publishing company decides to translate his books and they become a great success. He’s invited to a book signing in Madrid and meets a fascinating, puzzling, annoying and lovely woman, Maria, whom he initially thinks is only interpreting for him and later realises is the person who has translated his now successful book to Spanish. Maria is an unpublished writer, talented, and frustrated. She decides to do the translation as a chance to try and get attention for her own writing. She’s so appalled at the poor quality of Mike’s novel that she starts making ‘improvements’, amongst them, turning Mike’s detective protagonist, Eric, into Erica.
Maria has to try and avoid both the readers and Mike discovering her ruse, and she manages quite well. Although she despises Mike’s writing she discovers he’s not that bad and eventually things develop…Yes, in the direction you imagine. But as you know the course of true love never runs smooth and misunderstandings and confusion abound. Other people come in the way, translations and miscommunications get even more complicated, trips to and fro abound, and author’s egos are bruised but eventually healed.
Mr Wheeler has written a solid comedy of errors, with good and likeable (flawed but more human for it) main characters, some fabulous secondary characters (I love Maria’s father, her aunt, and the barber/Spanish teacher), and scenes that will make you cringe and laugh in equal measures. The writing is fresh, well paced, adapted to the different characters and surroundings, and it shows a deep understanding (and dare I say love?) for the cities and subjects it touches. We laugh at the world of publishing and writing from the inside, but we also wonder and marvel at is power and magic. You’ll be sorry once it finishes as you’ll feel Mike and Mary have become your friends, but don’t worry, there are plenty of epilogues to keep you going!
I recommend this novel to anybody with a sense of humour, particularly if you love books, and if you’ve ever tried to translate something, this should be compulsory reading! I look forward to reading more of Mr Wheeler’s books.