Our Share of Night
May 1, 2023 6:53 PM - Subscribe

Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez's first novel to be translated into English, Our Share of Night, is an epic horror story that traces a dangerous secret society of occultists across several generations from Argentina's 1970s dictatorship to the present day.

Reviews have been generally good, though the NYT inexplicably drops in a spoiler from about 2/3 of the way through the book and the Washington Post compares it to True Blood for some reason (it is not anything like True Blood). Enríquez is also the author of two short story collections which have been translated into English, Things We Lost in the Fire and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.

I wound up listening to most of this in audiobook format and thought the narration was quite well done.
posted by whir (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Looking forward to this one - Things We Lost in the Fire was really something. Apparently the title story from that collection is being made into a film , which is something to look forward to.
posted by remembrancer at 8:54 AM on May 2, 2023

I really loved this book. It's like the best of Stephen King, but feminist and anti-colonialist. I thought she really brought it to a satisfying conclusion, with enough interesting themes and ambiguity that I still think about it and ponder different interpretations.

I can't speak to the English translation, but reading it in Spanish was great. I usually have to stop and look up a lot of words when reading in Spanish, but Enríquez seems to be much easier for me. She's one of those writers who uses plain language and simple sentence structures, and wrings a lot of power out of the plain writing. (Compare Isabel Allende, who uses so much flowery language that I have to look up 6-10 words to get through a paragraph, and it just seems like she's going out of her way to use the thesaurus as much as possible.)

In her short stories, Enríquez is able to quickly draw compelling characters and situations, so I wondered how she would do with a pretty long novel. (My edition was 667 pages, which seemed significant - one more than the number of the beast.) Turns out she did really well, with a lot of depth to the characters. And as she always does with her short stories, she uses the supernatural horrors to highlight and parallel the real-life horrors that surround us all the time.

More like this, please Mariana! Gracias.
posted by umber vowel at 9:18 AM on May 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

ooh sounds intriguing! will add to The List.
posted by supermedusa at 9:28 AM on May 2, 2023

So this post got me to read the book. I am sorry to say that I liked it less than others seem to have.

What I liked
1. The cult is appropriately awful.

2. The underpinnings of colonialism and the awful history of Argentina make for an evocative background.

3. There are a lot of good images and settings.

4. Some of the characters were powerfully drawn, and felt quite real.

What I didn't like
1. It really isn't horror; there are horror images, but the approach is not horror and so the effect is hot horror. Some of this is due to Enríquez's sentence structure, which is very simple and direct. Horror thrives on ambiguity, and, in such a space environment, horror is hard to deliver.

2. Additionally, too many of what should have been very evocative images are viewed by PoV characters who are jaded by the supernatural. As a result, what should be shocking and disturbing feels commonplace. "A room full of mutilated children? How gauche." The few departures -- when the 4 friends enter the decrepit house -- become more confusing than horrifying.

3. There were points where I thought the well-earned impact of the disappeared and murdered were going really come home, and then they sort of didn't.

4. The author's use of gay characters and settings felt fetishistic. Simultaneously, the casual acceptance of all the "nice characters" of the gay characters seemed really forced. In a different vein, the character of Eddy was a "magic murderous mentally ill" character, which is a trope we really need to leave behind.

5. Both Juan and Gaspar were pretty repellent by the end; violent, cruel men who treated everyone around them like shit, and we are supposed to accept it because of their very special pain? No thanks.

6. For a book that's being lauded as feminist, it has very flat and grotesque female villains.

7. The book was, at a minimum, about a third too long. The story felt over long before the listless climax, which wasn't quite out of left field, and, too often, the story was overstuffed with ill-drawn characters (like the kids in the London massacre).

Overall, I'm not sad I read it, but I couldn't in good conscience recommend it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:40 PM on May 18, 2023

Wow! What a book! I loved Enríquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire, and was shocked that she was able to sustain the same unsettling tone as those short stories through a giant novel. Also of note: this places fictional human-scale horrors in the context of real-life political horrors (whose human-scale tragedies are also detailed in the book), but thankfully the horror isn’t (just) a metaphor for political violence or a “this supernatural thing is why things were bad in the real world, actually,” thing, which is a mode I generally detest. For fans of Revelator, Little Eve, Mexican Gothic, and other small-scale occult cult reads!
posted by quatsch at 7:12 AM on June 29, 2023

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