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Booker International Longlist 2022 – Elena Knows

Elena Knows

Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro Translated by Frances Riddle

Book 1 – reviewed by Rachel & Tracy

And we are off….

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: A unique story that interweaves crime fiction with intimate tales of morality and the search for individual freedom. Translated by Frances Riddle.

After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit. Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, Elena Knows unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society.

Rachel’s Thoughts:  Elena knows that her daughter would never have gone to the church in the rain, would never have taken her own life in that way. But to the police it’s a closed case of suicide. So Elena investigates, embarking on a journey across Buenos Aires to call in a debt.

Of course it’s not that simple. Elena’s body is confined by Parkinson’s disease (Herself). Her days are measured not in hours but in tablets and the time they take to work. We feel the effort that goes into every step Elena takes, the dismissals and brush-offs from the authority figures, and her determination to find answers.

Although such a short novel, I found this a powerful look at difficult and different parent-child relationships, at living with a progressive illness, at our impact on other people’s lives and who (or what) controls our bodies. The writing and translation are beautiful, with repeated themes but never feeling forced. And yes, I cried.

Pineiro has a number of other novels already translated into English – I’m looking forward to tracking them down.

Writing quality 4.5/5
Originality 4/5
Plot 3.5/4
Character development 4/4
Enjoyment 2/2
Total 18/20

Tracy’s Thoughts:  Elena knows her daughter was murdered. She couldn’t have committed suicide, because it was raining that day. And come hell or high water, she’s going to prove it.

Elena has Parkinson’s Disease, making her a rarity as a literary character.

The author did a very nice job of presenting Elena’s disease, while giving her a personality beyond it. That personality is a spunky, stubborn woman who would have a killer glare if she was physically able to look people in the eye.

The story follows Elena over one day, as she goes to Buenos Aires to call on the one person who can help her prove that her daughter’s death wasn’t by her own hand. As with any book based on a quest, the protagonist discovers something about herself.

This is a very satisfying tale, with just enough humor and snark for it to be a bit lighter than you’d expect.

Writing quality: 4.5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18.5/20

Elena Knows 18.25

Have you read this one? Let us know what you think.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. That has to be the closest scoring we’ve ever given 😂


    March 23, 2022
  2. sounds interesting. thanks for the review.


    March 24, 2022
  3. This has been on my radar for ages, great to see you all in alignment over it.


    March 25, 2022

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