Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal

A Marvellous Little Gem
review by Maryom

Conxa is the fifth child out of six in a peasant farmer family and at the age of 13 is sent to live with her childless aunt and uncle who are in need of an extra pair of hands. She slowly settles in to her new life, eventually marrying and raising her children there, despite the frequent absence of her husband who needs to travel to find work. Accustomed from an early age to a life of hard work and little rest, Conxa stoically accepts the trials that life brings her without complaint but as times and expectations change she finds herself feeling left behind and out of step with the world.

Another little gem from Peirene, translated from Catalan by Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell, Stone in a Landslide is the moving tale of an ordinary peasant woman, a first person narrative, simply told but with her own particular 'voice' which draws you in. The title reflects the pace of the book and of Conxa's life. It starts slowly as a stone would roll, but gathering momentum and speed, as Conxa finds herself caught up in the irresistible force of events, unable to shape them herself and finally coming to rest but left wondering where her life has gone.
This is a wonderful little book - only 126 pages, but in those pages Conxa and her world come to life. The reader shares her life and hopes, her unrealised dreams and disappointments, and ultimately her resignation and acceptance. A truly marvellous little gem of a book.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction


  1. Have you read many of the Peirene books? I have only read two so far, and they were both amazingly good. Conxa's voice is amazing in this, especially how she captures the essence of her younger self, so responsible at such a young age.

    1. I've found all of Peirene's books amazing! My favourite is still Portrait Of The Mother As A Young Woman (though this year's The Brothers is a close second!)What hooked me with Portrait was the conveying of a whole life through the young woman's rather rambling thoughts while out walking from A to B - a little like Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.