Cover Image: Abyss


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Pilar Quintana's Abyss follows our 8 year old narrator, Claudia, and her everyday life living with her parents in an apartment she sees as a jungle. This story is more "slice-of-life" than anything else. It's one of those literary fiction novels where nothing really happens in the story that makes it stand out, but the prose is just done so well and the events of the main character's life are enough to keep you reading.
I will admit, towards the end of the novel I was starting to worry that there wouldn't be an ending. I'm completely fine with an ending that isn't this big thing, but I still want it to wrap up the story, you know? In the past I've been burned by literary fiction books that seem to end in the middle of a sentence. Luckily, Quintana did a really good job at giving this book an ending that wasn't quite satisfying exactly, but that ended the novel in a way that seemed deliberate and that worked, even though it was nothing too action packed or reflective.
Overall I enjoyed the book and I think I'll check out her other translated novel, "The Bitch", if I can get my hands on it. I would recommend you read this if you're the type of person who can stand through a "boring" book with minimal plot and just enjoy the vibes and the writing.

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This book uses a child narrator in a brilliant way, allowing us to perceive the world through both the complexities of the adult world, and the ways that we often try to shield children from what they can often understand. The book was tense and interesting throughout.

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you net galley for providing me with a free copy of Abyss in exchange for a honest review.

Although I understand the deep meaningful messages this book was trying to deliver,and the portrayal of mental illness as well as other topics such as unstable family dynamics were well delivered, I simply could not rate this higher due to my inability to connect with any character including Claudia, the child narrating this story. The ending was highly disappointing

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This is a hauntingly beautiful exploration of grief, motherhood, and the raw power of the natural world. Set against the backdrop of Colombia's Pacific coast, the novel follows the life of a woman named María, who deals with profound loss while forming an unlikely bond with a stray dog. Quintana's prose is both lyrical and evocative, painting a vivid picture of the rugged yet stunning landscape while delving into the emotional depths of her characters. The book's themes of longing, resilience, and the indelible connection between humans and animals make "Abyss" a poignant and thought-provoking read.

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Although there’s an abundance of striking imagery and some marvellous descriptive passages, especially those featuring Cali’s landscapes and nearby mountains, I found this quite an uneven, sometimes frustrating, piece. At times it reads more like an extended character sketch of a mother and daughter despite various gestures towards gothic mystery - primarily represented through a storyline that echoes aspects of Du Maurier’s Rebecca. There are awkward stretches of mundane dialogue, and although Quintana’s exploration of patriarchy and destructive gender roles has potential, I didn’t feel it lived up to its promise. Translated by Lisa Dillman.

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It's an interesting experience reading a book in two languages. I had already read "The Abyss" by Pilar Quintana in its original Spanish and enjoyed it immensely. I was curious to see what choices the translator would make and how well the story could be interpreted in English. As it turns out, it was just as enjoyable.

That said this is not exactly a happy read. It tells the story of a little girl growing up in Colombia and her relationship with her parents. The story unfolds through her eyes, a truly sad experience as we see how her mother's depression and her father's darker side become increasingly clear to her. Her voice never ceases to be that of a child, but she begins to view the world in a way that no child should. Despite this, it's still clear that her parents (or at least her mother) is unfalibly human, and was regrettably shoved into a role that she would not have chosen for herself. It's a poignant read, but I don't regret reading it twice. I may go back for a third.

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Excellent place and time immersion.
Although never specifically said, it takes place in the early '80's. The author excellently handled recreating what would have been important to a young grade school girl at that time. (I remember those suede tennies with the yellow stripes!)
The descriptions of the landscape are beautiful and evocative. Especially the mountain retreat vacation location. I could almost feel the fog rolling in!
Very believably told from a child's point of view.

I don't understand this book. It just ends. No resolution. No conclusion. Not sure what the point of it all was.
Some will say Claudia's mother was ill, but I say she was extremely selfish. Doesn't care about her child. Has an affair with her sister's husband. Lays around all day reading magazines and drinking whiskey.

CONCLUSION: Beautiful locations and an authentic trip down memory lane to the '80's, without feeling kitschy. But expect to walk away a little depressed and confused.

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Set in Columbia in the 1980s, this haunting little tale of an 8-year-old child trying to interpret the world around her amidst the tensions of her parents’ failing marriage and her mother’s unstable mental health is moving and sad. Claudia is an impressionable child, longing for love and attention, but the adults around her are more concerned with their own lives and emotions. When a newcomer enters into the family circle, things become even more strained. It’s beautifully written and paced, although Claudia’s voice is perhaps too knowing and sophisticated for an 8-year-old. But her plight is certainly relatable, and it’s a poignant portrait of an unhappy little girl.

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DNF - This story just didn't work for me & maybe it was the point of view that was adopted though, I think I just wasn't the right reader.

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Story-wise, this felt like another blow to the gut as it was like reading my own experience. Though I didn’t witness it myself, like Claudia did, what happened to her parents’ marriage also happened in my life, around the same age.

Perhaps that is why I connected to the story better than others who reviewed it, but I never felt the tone of voice was unbelievable for a girl of eight. Witnessing and experiencing something as raw and frightening as your mother’s descent into depression, as well as the crumbling of your parents’ marriage, makes you grow up faster.

Ultimately, I felt the ending was a bit too abrupt for my liking, but this short book is a stellar novella and well worth your time.

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It's important to ask what do you want to walk away with after reading this book because it will color your opinion as you read. If you want to walk away with the vindication that strict gender roles for binary male and female, create a restrictive and claustrophobic life which leads to dark depression, paranoia, and lives half-lived, then you will be very satisfied with this story. If you are over that too-true story, being set in Colombia and having a Colombian culture will bring a shot of energy to the story.

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I really enjoyed this story. A tale of Claudia’s childhood, Abyss really reaches into the heart of her family, tearing it apart and attempting to put it back together. Claudia’s mother’s affair and depression seem to define her as a character, but as we see the world through her young daughter’s eyes this makes a lot of sense. Her parents relationship problem shake how she sees the world, as well as events from her parents past. Honestly, my only criticism is that I wanted it to be longer as the ending felt quite abrupt.

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First of all, thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for this ARC ✨I was honored to be given the opportunity to read this and give my honest thoughts about it.

Abyss is a book written by Colombian author Pilar Quintana. It was originally written in Spanish, but with the help of translator Lisa Dillman, it was also able to be translated in English. The book itself was very well written and was poetic. It did make me really sad at times while 8-year-old Claudia was being emotionally abandoned by her mother. Although not specifically confirmed, it was very clear that her mother was so emotionally unavailable because she struggled with depression. This really made me feel for all children who deal with this regarding their parents. It can be a really confusing thing. Even with Claudia throwing Paulette (the doll) over the cliff, I was like omg. This poor girl doesn’t quite understand the underlying circumstances here because she’s so young.

Overall there were open questions I had, and once I officially got to the end I was shocked when my kindle said “book complete” because it seemed SO abrupt. That is why I knock off a star. I will add that the translation was so good. I would’ve never known that it was initially a book written in Spanish! So kudos to Lisa Dillman for that. And of course kudos to the author for telling the story.

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I had such a hard time deciding how to rate this book.

This is my first read by Pilar Quintana and I expected to be blown away, due to both her reputation and the premise of this book. Indeed there were moments where I was amazed, the writing was striking, descriptive, a true demonstration of Pilar's talent, and then at times all I wanted to do was skip ahead. I do wonder if this is due in part to the novel being a translation, perhaps some elements got lost and that's why the book reads this way. Eventually I may read the original and judge it in that way.

Overall, it is enjoyable and worth the read (it can be done in one sitting), it just may not be a 5 star read.

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Set in Cali, Colombia, Abyss is a story about eight-year-old Claudia and particularly her relationship with her mother. We see the world through Claudia’s eyes as she struggles to understand and decipher what is happening around her. Her family is well off, her father the owner of a supermarket where he works long hours. Her mother grew up wealthy but became impoverished after her father’s death. She married her much older husband when she was still a young woman and now spends her days reading magazines and caring for the copious amount of plants that fill their apartment.

Claudia’s life seems normal enough but things change when her father’s sister marries a younger man. Claudia’s mother and this new uncle seem drawn together and though Claudia describes their interactions with innocence, the reader can see what is happening behind the scenes. From there, Claudia’s mother (also named Claudia) falls into a deep depression, rarely rising from her bed and increasingly pushing Claudia away.

Tension grows when the family takes a holiday to a house high in the mountains. The house belongs to a family that Claudia (the elder) knew as a young girl. Years ago the mother of this family disappeared while driving up the mountain one night. Claudia (the younger) becomes obsessed with this family and increasingly convinced that this disappeared mother is haunting the house. Would a mother every intentionally leave her family? wonders young Claudia and it is clear that she is attempting to understand and reconcile her own mother’s depression.

The book has a very constrained feel, told as it is through the eyes of such a young child. Claudia is smart and observant but too young to fully understand the things she is witnessing. At the same time, the author never talks down to her characters. Claudia (the younger) is a child but she isn’t infantilized. There’s no sense of the author winking at the reader over Claudia’s head. We feel sadness for Claudia as we understand what is happening around her and watch her struggle to process her own experience. The fears of childhood and the uncertainty of adult behaviour are captured extremely well.

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Amazing book from a young girls point of view into family, sexism, depression, death.

Amazing techniques to use same character name for the child and mother; Claudia. Usage of “abyss” both literal and metaphorical.

Fell in love with this books. One to keep with me forever.

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Pilar Quintana has gain a faithful reader through me via this book. A heart wrenching story of grief and how it moulds you through the eyes of a child really melt my heart. Absolutely loved it.

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A short novel set in 1980s Cali, in Colombia. 8-year old Claudia recounts the story of her mother who is clearly suffering from depression - although that's not something that is talked about. The mother, attractive and much younger than her husband is bored of being at home all day, has an affair and when she's found out things go downhill. The girl is afraid something bad will happen to her mother, just as the awful things she reads about in magazines about Grace Kelly and Karin Carpenter.

I found the voice of the girl believable. The writing is very fluid - you can read this in two evenings - and evocative of the eighties, of children's fears, and of Cali's lush green surroundings.

I wouldn't mind seeing this on the International Booker longlist next month!

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Abyss reveals a relationship between 8-year-old Claudia and her mother of the same name. Claudia’s father is often absent because of his work, while her mother is mostly at home and reads magazines about celebrities. While Claudia is often alone with her mother, they have unusual conversations. So Claudia ponders death and suicide more than other 8-year-olds.

Although Abyss is a solid novel, and I liked it in one way, something constantly slowed me down with my reading. The story is told from the POV of a daughter, 8-year-old Claudia, and it bothered me she doesn’t always sound like a child. Overall, Abyss was a fine read, but there were quite some passages in this novel that I found slow and some even unnecessary.

Thanks to World Editions for the ARC and this opportunity! This is a voluntary review, and all opinions are my own.

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While many people focus on how Claudia’s experiences show how children witness and are affected by their surroundings, I would like to explore how much of an only child she is. Being an only child is a unique experience. Some people believe that it’s obvious that only children don’t have siblings to squash them or make them more responsible and that makes them more spoiled and selfish. They may not be good at sharing their personal space and are prone to becoming introverted. However, “Abyss” is the first book I’ve read in a long time that captures the inwardness and loneliness of an only child with messy parents. It’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling introverted or lonely, and having another child simply to provide companionship for the first child is not a good idea. In fact, according to an article by Psychology Today, only children are just like everyone else.

In addition, the novel captures the phenomenon of hyper-fixation, which is a term that describes the intense focus that can occur in one’s mind. As an only child, this experience resonates with me, and I find it fascinating to see it portrayed in literature. At the same time, calling hyper-fixation by its name makes me feel a bit less different; a little less special but also more relieved. I’m not a crazy obsessive person; I am who I am.

That terrible heat, I felt it, like a rope around her neck.

And in this novel we see two generations of this obsession. One now a mother and the other a child, and with the tremendous loneliness, (or perhaps relief) of not being the fixation. Of course, she’s also depressed. Of course, it’s brilliant in the throws of an obsession to hover on the edge of a cliff. But it’s not for a child. It’s not for a girl who see’s but doesn’t fully understand why her parents marriage is a breath away from imploding. Why you’d want to hope someone wanted to drive themselves of a cliff, while you’d want to hope that it was and wasn’t suicide when they toppled from a balcony. I don’t want to romanticise the latter, but I can understand why we’d want the women around us to have control over their endings, especially if they had none over the rest of the story.

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