Cover Image: Abyss


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Member Reviews

This is a book that deals with some of the struggles of family dynamics told through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl. I found myself emphasising with Claudia as she recounts the events and I felt it was written well and I was thoroughly engaged throughout.
The descriptions of the surroundings were truly beautiful and I could really visualise every place the characters were in down to minute details.
I felt it discussed important issues such as infidelity and mental health issues and how these can be viewed by young children who are affected by them.
My one downside of the book was the ending, it just seemed very abrupt and I was left a bit underwhelmed as a result of that.
Other than that, I would definitely recommend this and would certainly read more by this author.

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I really enjoyed this challenging look at family dynamics seen through the lens of a young girl. This story shows the darkness that can happen in a family and the problems that children have to deal with.

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This was my first experience reading any of Pilar Quintana's work, and after experiencing Abyss, I know I want to read more by this author. This book has such an air of melancholy and death tinges every page. I found myself sucked in despite the depressing storyline and the fact that this usually isn't my preferred genre.

Told from the perspective of 8-year-old Claudia, we watch through her eyes as her mother battles bouts of depression, the deliberate blind eye all of the adults turn to her situation, and her parents struggle to stay together despite an affair. It's dark, disturbing, and had me fearful to turn the page as we neared the end of the book, uncertain of how it would end.

However, the ending wasn't what I feared, albeit very abrupt and not very satisfying. Despite all that, this book will be sticking with my thoughts for a while.

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3.5 stars. It’s such a different story that I appreciate, children all ages understand nuance, changes, sadness etc. My heart ached for little Claudia. I think the ending was just so abrupt.

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Abyss is a heartfelt novel that tells the story about Claudia and how she trying to understand life and see the world through the adults around her. She has a strong fear of abandonment and has a hard childhood. This book will pull at your heartstrings and make you feel for any child that has to move through the world in away to protect themselves from feeling alone.

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"Suddenly I was at the mountain house. It was nighttime. I was standing at the hall mirror and my reflection showed me, small and dark, in a white nightie, Paulina in my arms. We had the same French braids as the girls and our heads hurt. Fog passed before us, then enveloped us, and when it dissolved, we were on the edge of the cliff. The abyss was calling, tugging at us. I offered up Paulina, in an attempt to appease it, and though the abyss devoured her she wasn’t enough; it wanted me too. Claudia, it called. Claudiaaa, howling like the wind when it tunneled through the canyon. I fought with all my might, trying to sever the thread at the bottom of the abyss, the thread that was pulling me down through the dry leaves that were my dead."

Abyss is Lisa Dillman's translation of Pilar Quintana's Los abismos which won the Premio Alfaguara de Novela in 2021, and follows the The Bitch by the same duo, a National Book Award Finalist for Translated Literature.

The story is narrated by a eight-year old girl (*), Claudia, who lives in Cali in Colombia with her middle-class family. Claudia's father owns and runs a supermarket, and her mother, who is much younger than her husband, is a housewife her plans to go to University to read law blocked by her father, and she now lives on a diet of celebity magazines.

Things take a turn for the worse when Claudia's paternal aunt marries a man much younger than her, and then he and Claudia's mother have, or at least are suspected by their partners to have had, an affair. The brother-in-law vanishes from the scene (Claudia suspects her father may have threatened him or worse) and Claudia's mother settles into depression, her new literary love the story of starlets who died young and in mysterious circumstances (which, unlike the conspiracy theorists, she assumes is suicide in each case):

“Papá, are there people who don’t want to live?” It was Sunday and Cali was deserted. All for us.
“People who don’t want to live?”
“Mamá said.”
“She told you there were people who didn’t want to live?”
“Like Karen Carpenter, she killed herself by starvation.” We were standing at the mouth of the Aguacatal River.
“Your mother told you that?”
“The Carpenter woman had a disease.” The waters of the Cal flowed gently between the rocks. “Well Princess Grace of Monaco drove off a cliff.”
“That was an accident.”
“How do you know?”
“They said it on the news.”
“What about Natalie Wood?”
“Also an accident.”
“They said it on the news?”

The abyss of the title is one by a house in the mountains, owned by an old friend, where the family go to try to piece back their lives, although Claudia's father spends much of his time travelling back to sort things out at the supermarket, her mother drinks, and Claudia herself becomes obsessed with the story of the previous owner of the house, a woman who following a row at a party drove off into the foggy mountainuous roads and was never seen again. And the fourth member of the family, Claudia's beloved doll Paulina, develops suicidal thoughts of her own.

I have to admit this one didn't work for me. The narrative voice I felt was unsuccessful - Claudia seems to be narrating the story from the perspective of her 8-year old self (there is no sense of 'I later discovered' / 'I realise now') but in a voice that is clearly of someone much older. And the story is both rather straightforward and, like The Bitch, highly intense, but less successfully than the earlier novel, with the intensity tipping into overwrought.

2 stars.

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A tale of twisted fates and intertwined family histories, told through the eyes of a child. Suffocating in the heat, throat stuffed with flower blossoms, this book really sucked me in from page one.

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An outstanding book.

I was lucky enough to get this as an advanced copy from NetGalley.

It is the story of Claudia and her family told through the eyes of the child, Claudia. The story on the surface is that of a little girl trying to understand a world in which her mother seems to swing between caring and unfeeling within a matter of minutes.

However this book gives insight into depression, anxiety and suicide and its impact on a young girl. The voice of Claudia is compelling and utterly believable. Her struggle to comprehend her mother's withdrawal into depression and her father's ignorance at how bad things are is enough to make you want to reach through the pages and bang the parents heads together.

I honestly can't give this book enough praise. I could barely put it down but then I was fearful of what I might read next. It is certainly disturbing.

Throughout is the theme of the abyss which starts out as the view from the first floor balcony of her mother's plant infested living room. It becomes the block of flats that her mother's best friend lives in and on to the precipitous valley below the country retreat the family go to after a crisis occurs.

There's so much more to this book than in this review but if I went on you'd basically have the book.

Very very highly recommended.

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This novella is a good read telling a story in a subtle way through the voiceof a child. One says the truth comes out of children's voice. This is true. If the mother had listened to her daughter, been receptive to her as to her own depression, her own reactions as a powerless woman in society and country, the story told would have a completely different tone....
I received a complimentary ARC of this novella from NetGalley and I am leaving voluntarily a review.

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The book I didn’t know I needed. This is a story that needs to be in the hands of more readers. Truly captivated by this book and it really threw itself to the forefront as one of my favorite reads of the year!

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