Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Slow Lightning

by Mark Frutkin

Set in Spain during Franco’s rise to power during the Spanish civil War, Mark Frutkin’s latest novel, Slow Lightning, has all the elements of a historical or “period piece:” there’s a war, and so there are politics. There is also a hero, a love story, a journey, and a destiny to be fulfilled.

Enter Sandro, an engineering student and errant pacifist who must flee Barcelona and return to his village when he learns that the police have placed his name on “the list” for associating with known dissidents. He leaves behind his best friend, wounded in a row with police, and Teresa, the woman who will occupy his thoughts for much of his journey. On his way home, he eludes both soldiers and police through remarkable twists of fate, meets a host of quirky tertiary characters, knocks off a few love letters to his girlfriend, and devises a plan to bring his impoverished village out of the dark ages by pulling off one of the greatest hoaxes in history.

It’s a somewhat conventional plot, but Frutkin lends this tale a genuine charm through his decidedly lyrical treatment. The sights, smells, and sensations of Spain offer the author ample opportunity to flex his poetic muscles, and in Slow Lightning Frutkin does this as well as anyone, with the possible exception of an overindulgence here and there, as when Sandro has an ecstatic vision in the cave he’s hiding in. It’s here that the lyrical thread of the prose seems to stick out from the narrative fabric, jarring the reader away from the story momentarily, but not so much that the entire novel is in danger of unravelling.

Slow Lightning is a tightly woven, enjoyable book. Frutkin’s lyrical style gives the reader a fast-paced, often lighthearted, and sensual take on the quest narrative. And it just might jerk the odd tear.


Reviewer: Paul Vermeersch

Publisher: Raincoast Books


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 208 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-55192-406-4

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 2001-2

Categories: Fiction: Novels