Thursday, March 2, 2017

In the Shadow of Hemingway

Book Review: Drought by Ronald Fraser

When the talk turns to novels about Spain and the Spanish Civil War, men of a certain age (including me) will immediately turn to Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway turned his minimalist realist eye on the Spanish Civil War novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and opened the door to a world unknown to most Americans. In Drought, Ronald Fraser picks up where Hemingway left off, historically and stylistically, and gives us a view of Spain where the echoes of the Civil War can still be heard. Old animosities lie hidden, but are neither forgotten nor forgiven, and the trust between neighbors is still a tentative thing.

Writing in a spare style reminiscent of Hemingway, Fraser has penned what can almost be regarded as a sequel to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Parallels exist between the characters of both novels, including the foreign protagonist. Just as the bridge played a central role in Hemingway's tale, Fraser has a dam to do the heavy lifting. Hemingway's "iceberg" storytelling style is evident in both stories; the reader must divine motives and personalities from the actions and dialog of the characters.

And so the question becomes, is Drought the heir apparent of For Whom the Bell Tolls, or is it simply fan fiction? I just finished my second reading of Drought, with my copy of Hemingway at hand, and I will admit the comparison is favorable. Fraser may not be a match for one of the masters of American literature, but he has certainly given us more than a shadow of his intent, and a clear but fleeting echo of the master's voice.