As I use my hand to shield my eyes from the blistering heat I gaze out at the dust filled wasteland before me. The skeletons of trees threaten to disintegrate at the mere mention of a breeze. The ground crumbles beneath my feet, laughing at my attempts to straighten my walk. She, the devil’s mistress is already branding her mark deep into my neck. Reddened and swollen from just a few minutes in her gaze. This is but a taste of where my mind has been exploring the past few days. Intrigued? Read on.
Today on the blog dear readers I have a delightful review for you. A big thank you to the wonderful people at époque press for sending a copy and giving me this opportunity to review the debut novel of Luis Carrasco, El Hacho.
Époque Press is a new independent publisher based in Brighton and Cheltenham who aim to bring inspirational and thought-provoking work to a wider audience. If you are a regular reader here on my blog you will know how I fully support independent publishers seeking out new voices and authors. To read more about the fantastic work époque press is producing, check out their website here and links at the end of this post.
El Hacho is a timeless evocation of inheritance, duty and our relationship to the landscape that defines us. Set in the stark beauty of the Andalucían mountains it tells the story of Curro, an olive farmer determined to honour his family tradition in the face of drought, deluge and the lucrative temptations of a rapidly modernising Spain.
Wonderfully crafted, El Hacho is a poignant and compelling story of struggle and hope.
Upon opening El Hacho I was instantly transported to the tranquil Andalusian mountains. A sight I long to see in the flesh one day. But for now, I can pretend I have planted my feet firmly on Spanish soil. El Hacho has more than satisfied my craving. Filled with breathtaking scenery and all the detail to drink in, I was never in short supply of discovering how drastically the sun can wreak havoc with the landscape.
‘He still had time to water the herbs and flowers that glistened with a filmy dew before the angel of life and death reared implacably above the valley wall and scorched the thin leaves dry.’
It opened my eyes to how the simplest thing such as the heat can have devastating effects to those that rely on rain to quench their crop’s thirst. Something I think we are all guilty of taking for granted. I learnt a lot from El Hacho and one thing for definite is to be grateful for what I have and to not obsess over what I don’t. It really is the little things in life that make it all worth while. Cliche as it sounds but honestly dear reader. It’s the truth.
Curro is a kind, thoughtful and wise character. He’s not even mad when he goes to release his traps and he sees some animal has stripped a few of the carcasses first. He knows their need is just as important as his own. His way of thinking is part of an old world that has all but ceased to exist and it is a welcome sight. Again, something we can all learn from and adapt to our modern society.
‘The man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest. Let’s try to find the balance.’
The endless amounts of love Curro has for his family, his wife Carmen and the land echoes calmly throughout El Hacho. The love for his parents and his father’s approval is touching to read. A small tear escaped me as I followed Curro on his journey to remain true and honest to his family’s traditions. The land is a part of them all, it’s in their veins and grows deep like the roots of the trees. They are connected from generation to generation and will one day all be reunited underground, giving back to the land. A disturbing beautiful imagine that captures the reality of life itself.
I admired the striking imagery of the bull and Curro, it was perfectly done and had the desired effect. Curro and the bull are one and the same. Both incredibly stubborn and determined to finish what they started. This image painted a strong symbol of struggle and hope in my mind. A message to the reader to not give up and never give in. Powerful stuff.
‘Why doesn’t he escape the heat, he thought, and knew he was the bull himself.’
As I read page after page of Curro working himself till he bled I felt exhausted. My bones ached at the weight this man was carrying upon his shoulders. There were times where I wished it to end, for the rain to come and his sentence to be done. But it didn’t. I had to read through his torment, day after day, praying it would all be worth it in the end. That Curro would finally be rewarded. A well used technique by Carrasco, as the reader is completely immersed in the character’s experiences. They too have to continue to watch this play out with no quick escape route in site. The reader is solely relying on only the hope and strength of this one character holding it all together. Genius writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading how the relationship between Curro and his brother Jose-Marie played out as they are complete polar opposites. While Curro is all about tradition and hard work. Jose-Marie dreams of a life of luxury and money. So when an offer was laid out on the table to Curro, I was extremely curious how this was going to pan out.
‘The way you look at others.
How do I look at others?
Like there’s nothing in them but a way to make some money. We’re all spokes on the same wheel Marie. We turn together.’
You can’t help but understand why Marie wants a different and better life as he is young and never wanted to work on the land. Yet you want him to stay working with Curro, to carry on their family’s tradition. I was desperately biting my lip hoping that Curro would do what most of us normal folk would do. Choose the money. The fact that I cared about this character to choose an easy way out spoke volumes to me. I am not one to quit and will fight to the bitter end. But I couldn’t bear the thought of Curro continuing to struggle, losing flesh, sweat and blood in the process. It made me tense up which admittedly made me read more.
‘To tear down that mountain would be to rip the heart from this village.’
However, I gained more respect for Curro. Not only did he let his brother go but he also gave him a small lump sum of money. That, right there dear readers is a gentlemen. A man among men. Someone who sacrifices their own personal gain in the name of family. The greed in humans is what destroys and pollutes the world we live in. The place we call home. It’s in all of us waiting to manifest and corrupt our lives. But if we could all learn and take something away from Curro, it would be to live a life of worth by enjoying the simplest of pleasures. To be rich in love, family, life and not allow money to dictate to us whether we can be happy without it.
Towards the end of El Hacho I was cheering Curro on to succeed. I felt helpless but I persisted for I owed it to him, to not abandon him like his own brother. And boy was I glad I did. Only at the end did I realise how much I had learned and felt stronger in myself. A powerful journey, one I would willingly take again and again. It’s books like El Hacho that truly show you the beauty in it all. They leave an imprint on your heart that stays with you for a lifetime. El Hacho strips back to the basics in life. What and who really matters when it all falls down before your eyes. To not give up and to always be true to yourself.
I give El Hacho By Luis Carrasco a Four out of Five paw rating.
A story with a lot of heart. I can not recommend this book enough. If you are looking for a journey of self discovery and a glimpse of an old world long forgotten. El Hacho is for you. It speaks to so many people on different levels that you will be surprised with what you discover each time you escape to the Andalusian mountains.
If you would like to buy your own copy of El Hacho By Luis Carrasco check out the links below. Enjoy!
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époque press website
Places to Buy El Hacho By Luis Carrasco