LEARNING TO LOSE by David Trueba

Book Quote:

“She takes aggressive strides, as if kicking the air. She is oblivious to the fact that, crossing the street she now walks along, she will be hit by an oncoming car. And that while she is feeling the pain of just having turned sixteen, she will soon be feeling a different pain, in some ways a more accessible one: that of her right leg breaking in three places.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (JUN 22, 2010)

David Trueba has written an interesting intergenerational family saga translated from the Spanish by Mara Lethem. At nearly 600 pages, this book is truly a tome. Learning to Lose follows the adventures of 16-year-old Sylvia, a high school student, her father Lorenzo, and her paternal grandfather, Leandro. The book is also about a professional soccer player named Ariel. The story is told in chapters that alternate between the perspectives of these four characters.

As the book opens, Aurora, Sylvia’s grandmother, breaks her hip. Leandro takes her to the hospital for care. While he is waiting with her he peruses the sex pages in their daily newspaper. A particular advertisement about a “chalet” draws his attention. He has no formal intention of visiting this brothel but he ends up there anyway. Thus begins a sex addiction that escalates out of control. Leandro is obsessed with a particular Nigerian prostitute and is spending down his retirement in almost daily visits to her.

Leandro was once an aspiring pianist who tried to make it professionally but did not succeed. Instead, he ended up teaching piano at a prestigious Spanish school. The book talks about many conductors, pianists, and professionals in the music field.

Sylvia is sixteen and very insightful for her age. As she is crossing the street one evening, she is run over by 20-year-old Ariel, a professional soccer player who has recently immigrated to Spain from Argentina. Sylvia ends up with some contusions and a broken leg. Later on, Ariel and Sylvia begin a passionate affair. The book discusses a lot about soccer and this will appeal to soccer fans.

Lorenzo has just killed his cheating ex-business partner, Paco, when the book opens. Because of Paco, Lorenzo has been wiped out financially. Lorenzo is Sylvia’s primary parent, as his wife has left him for another man and Sylvia resides with him. We are privy to Lorenzo’s concerns about the police and his thoughts about the murder. We are voyeurs to his somewhat kinky sexual appetites. He worries about Sylvia but is not good at connecting with her. Lorenzo begins to date Daniela, a childcare worker in his building.

The novel raises interesting questions about morality, ethics, loss, love, and intimacy. The narrative is a bit blunted and not as fluid as I would have liked. I presume this is due to the translation. However, the reader will be kept turning pages, wondering whether Lorenzo will be caught by the police. Will Aurora find out about Leandro’s sex addiction? Will Sylvia and Ariel’s affair become public? If so, will they be harmed since Sylvia is a minor? There is a lot going on in this novel and I look forward to reading more of David Trueba’s work.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 7 readers
PUBLISHER: Other Press (June 22, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on David Trueba
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another novel set in Madrid:

Child’s Play by Carmen Posada


June 22, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Coming-of-Age, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Spain, Translated

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