Thursday 6 December 2012

Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan Van Mersbergen

Danny is a boxer and he's running hard when he hitches a ride with Robert, a family man on his way to Pamplona to participate in the legendary bull race.  Desperate to get away from his own immediate past, Danny joins Robert and attempts to block certain events from his mind.  But even when you run the past has a habit of catching up with you, as Danny is about to discover.

I think that is quite possibly the shortest summary I have ever written, but Tomorrow Pamplona is like that.  It's a spare book in which not a word is wasted and not everything is explicit.  On the surface it seems like a simple story - Danny running from life - but there's so much going on underneath and it's up to you as the reader to figure it out.  To be completely honest, I don't think I got everything out of this book there was to get; I finished it with more questions than I had answers.  And that was refreshing - too often authors tell you everything, so it was nice to read a book that left it to me to connect the dots for myself.

Tomorrow Pamplona is the second book in the Peirene series 'Male Voices' and it's more overly 'macho' than the previous offering, Next World Novella (my review).  Aside from Danny being a boxer, he's much more 'closed off' than Hinrich was in Next World Novella, much more brief and he keeps his emotions to himself.  There's a lot of stuff about adrenaline and danger and the need to face danger to get the blood pumping.  Rightly or wrongly, these are traits that society generally associates with males.  I felt like Van Mersbergen took me very convincingly inside Danny's head, although I didn't understand everything I found there.  At the end of the book, I was still undecided about whether or not I liked him and I suspect that the his actions and his need to run were all based on false information.

The writing in Tomorrow Pamplona was excellent, as was the depiction of Danny.  But I wanted to know more about Robert, as I couldn't understand why he was so helpful to Danny.  In the beginning he says something about helping hitchhikers in order to hear their stories, but this didn't seem to justify everything he did, including paying Danny's way and putting up with some erratic and snappy/aggressive behaviour.  I felt like Van Mersbergen only scratched the surface of what made Robert tick and it would have been interesting to delve a little deeper.

On the whole, another well written and interesting novella from Peirene.  It's not going to be one of my favourites, but I still enjoyed it.

Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review
First Published in English: 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5


  1. Interesting. I need to read up on what you're doing right now with this Peirene. I hadn't heard of this before so it's nice to be introduced to something that you don't see everywhere.

    On another note, I'm really looking forward to your review of The Red Tent. I've had that sitting on my shelf for years and need to get the motivation to read it. I've heard great things so hopefully you're enjoying it.

  2. Hi Sam! It amazes me how different our reviews are each week, even though we're reading the same thing at the same time :)I was just wondering, seeing as this is a joint thing, would you mind referencing that with links in your reviews, as I am? Thanks!

  3. I was taken aback by the level of violence in this novella. It doesn't compare to the blood and gore found in a thriller but somehow in its context I found it more shocking.

  4. The Peirene books always sound intriguing, but I think this one might be a bit too 'manly' for me!

  5. Great post agree that Robert's role was the morecconfused didn't understand his motives , beyond possibly reliving some youthful aspects of his life but that's just guess work.