The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras
When Leo’s marriage ends, he falls into the depths of depression. He decides to escape the loss and the heartbreak with a trip to the other side of the world – Lima, Peru. In some ways, his journey becomes an unexpected salvation as his passions are reignited by the local food and people, the climate and the beautiful and alluring Marisol.
I am always incredibly appreciative when both authors and publishing houses contact me to review their work. I find it flattering initially, and then I'm always interested to read the author's work. Let's face it, they've done more than me in the world of writing and this garners a lot of respect. The issue I have is that I always want to give a good review, which can sometimes go against my relentless need to be honest, both in my reviews, and in life. As I wouldn't feel comfortable being anything other than frank, here it is:
The Love of Marisol follows the story of Leo, who has recently gone through a divorce. He travels to Peru to visit his cousins; an adventure intended to take his mind away from the misery his situation has caused him. During the fourteen hour flight, Leo goes through complete emotional turmoil, and Toulouras writes this in a very dismal, believable way; one which is akin to the types of depression I've seen in the past. His feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and loss are well described, and his feelings of isolation in contrast to his aversion to any social contact will be, I feel, familiar to some.
Upon landing, Leo still feels terrible, but perseveres and goes to a club with his cousin and friends. These characters are as shallow as puddles; we're given a limited backstory to the cousins, and one or two friends, but these fall short due to an amazing lack of dialogue between any of the characters. Leo meets Marisol in the club and the depression magically disappears. We then flurry through a whirlwind love affair peppered with sex scenes. Fin.
My main disappointment here was that Marisol, and the other women in the novel, were described as nothing more than objects. Each woman was described in depth as a Latin American beauty, we were told how their bodies moved, how their skin and lips looked, and how they very much wanted to have sex with all the men. Some were merely described as 'sexy'. Great. Marisol barely had any dialogue at all, apart from telling Leo how much she had fallen for him; we didn't get to understand her as a character, no depth, no backstory, a total object. When Leo met her sisters (who were both smoking hot as well), he made the assumption the one cradling the small baby had been humped and dumped due to a lack of male presence in the home. Come on, bro.
Although I liked that the ending wasn't necessarily a standard happy one, it didn't sit too well with me either. Leo says goodbye to Marisol, saying he'll email her and he'll return one day, gets to the airport, soliloquises about how he'll never see her again, then moves all of his attention on to a Swiss blonde. You'll forgive me for saying this is all too familiar, and Leo is not a likeable character.
I also noticed a number of errors in the novel, mostly with punctuation. Sometimes a similar, but incorrect word was used; although I can always let this slide, it was rife throughout the somewhat small number of pages, meaning more noticeable and more irritating. I did wonder if the novel had been translated, as the author is originally from Cyprus, but I couldn't find this out.
Again, it really pains me to post a bad review, but there were so many things about this irking me. Toulouras is a good writer; his portrayal of Leo's mental state at the beginning of the novel was beautiful, and his descriptions of Peru were glorious. The plot and characters just need a lot of work.