The Last Days of Terranova
A far-reaching story of an outcast and his bookstore: a home to forbidden books, political dissidents, and cultural smugglers all brought to vivid poetic life
“Rivas is a master… His pages bloom like flowers, swerving in unpredictable arcs toward a light-source that is constantly moving.” —Bookforum
The Last Days of Terranova tells of Vicenzo Fontana, the elderly owner of the long-standing Terranova Bookstore, on the day it's set to close due to the greed of real-estate speculators. On this final day, Vincenzo spends the night in his beloved store filled with more than seventy years of fugitive histories.
Jumping from the present to various points in the past, the novel ferries us back to Vicenzo's childhood, when his father opened the store in 1935, to the years that the store was run by his Uncle Eliseo, and to the years in the lead-up to the democratic transition, which Vicenzo spent as far away from the bookstore as possible, in Madrid.
Like the bookstore itself, The Last Days of Terranova is a space crammed with stories, histories, and literary references, and as many nooks, crannies, and complexities, brought to life in Rivas’s vital prose.
Praise for The Last Days of Terranova
"The store’s name is a play on Newfoundland, and Terranova becomes just that — newfound land — for those visiting it or hiding in its attic. The bookstore doesn’t deserve to close, but even if it does, its soul will live on to inspire future generations in their struggles."
--Darrell Delamaide, The Washington Independent Review of Books
"Rivas' sentences are aflame with philosophy and well-wrought beauty; beauty that, at times, supersedes the narrative itself. Rogers' translation from the original Galician is lucid and musical. . . As beautifully incongruous as a human mind."
"Rivas offers a tender requiem for a venerable Spanish bookstore . . . Literary and political history regularly intertwine: as dictatorships and revolutions come and go, the store is raided by secret police amid discussions of Andre Breton and walk-ons by the likes of Jorge Luis Borges. Terranova comes to encapsulate histories both personal and national, a vantage point to glimpse the melancholy and ecstasy of the characters and their culture . . . This hits the spot, both as a love letter to and postmortem of the world of ideas."
"To Vicenzo, the closing of the family bookstore is like a killing, of himself, of his family, of the precious books within, and of the memories intertwined with all of them . . . What distinguishes Rivas’s approach isn’t that it reroutes the generic storyline much but that it festoons it with winsome, slithery sentences . . . It’s here that the novel focuses its most genuine invention . . . The novel seeks to give life to the readers’ experiences, to reconcile all the things we’ve been, to breathe life into an old story with memory’s iron lung."
--James Butler-Gruett, On the Seawall
"The Last Days of Terranova is a rich tale peopled with singular characters driven by idiosyncratic passions and hidden secrets, haunted by personal demons. Their relationships are complicated and the risks they take are real, set against uncertain and often dangerous political realities in both Spain and Argentina. The quirky bookstore is brilliantly realized while Vicenzo is the perfect, modestly eccentric narrator to carry a story that holds so much humour, honest emotion, and literary and historical lore."
--Joseph Schreiber, Rough Ghosts
"Rivas exercises terrific control of this fragmented chronicle, allowing Vincenzo, the main narrator, to illuminate the depths of his feelings of saudade – a recurring motif – through to a marvelous ending."
--Declan O'Driscoll, The Irish Times