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Tomorrow Pamplona – Book Review

A flock of starlings swirls over the cornfields, a dark patch against the sky, constantly changing shape, growing larger, then shrinking. The occasional starling splits off from the group. Danny tries to follow the bird with his eyes, even after the group swallows it up and it disappears, just like the stray thoughts that  break away and whirl through the air before merging again with the darkness in his mind. – from Tomorrow Pamplona, page 76 –

Danny is a boxer living in The Netherlands. He is good at what he does. So good, in fact, that he is noticed by a promoter and offered a contract for a dozen high profile fights. Associated with the promoter is a woman named Ragna whose beauty catches Danny’s eye.

Robert is married with two children. Although his life seems idyllic, he seems to have a roving eye and a propensity to seek excitement far from his family.

On a rainy afternoon, Robert offers Danny a ride. The two have never met, but it is clear they have forged a connection of sorts. What begins as simply two strangers in a car, evolves into a days long trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls – an event that means something very different to each man. It is clear from the beginning that Danny is hiding something, while Robert is somewhat of an open book. But they are both running from things in their life…and they will both, eventually, need to go back.

Tomorrow Pamplona is a powerful book about internal demons, dissatisfaction, anger, remorse, and obsession. Written in spare language and finishing just short of 200 pages, this slim novel’s narrative is driven by the two main characters. Robert is looking for something, Danny is fleeing from something – and both men think what they need will be found on the cobbled streets of Pamplona with the scent of bulls in the air.

This book is a relatively quick read and surprisingly compelling given that much of the story occurs inside a closed vehicle as it winds its way south from The Netherlands into Spain. It is Danny’s story that kept me turning the pages. Told in flashbacks, Danny’s secret is revealed slowly over the course of the book. Jan Van Mersbergen captures the internal conflict of Danny easily, uncovering a man whose life is not as simple as it first appears. Danny’s struggle to deal with a life-changing event is primarily internal, but this perspective is highly effective at providing the reader with a connection to the character that strengthens as the book unfolds.

I have come to expect literary excellence from Peirene Press, and I was not disappointed with Tomorrow Pamplona. Highly recommended for those who love literary fiction and translated works.

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FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.


  1. Amy Amy
    June 8, 2011    

    Great review, and glad to see you enjoyed this one so much.

  2. June 8, 2011    

    This sounds like a modern telling of a few of my favorite Hemingway stories. :O) I love the concept behind it and glad that it is a worthy read. Thanks so much for this review!

  3. June 8, 2011    

    I think the mystery behind Danny’s story is a big part of what drives the narrative forward. It was a bit hard for me to get into because it is such a guy book, but I found the tension between fight and flight very interesting.

  4. June 9, 2011    

    I have been reading a few other reviews of this book, and it sounds like a quiet but stunning read. I hadn’t heard of it before this week, but I think I am going to add it to my wish list. Thanks for the enticing review!

  5. Amy Amy
    June 12, 2011    

    This book sounds amazingly compelling and absorbing. I love that it appears to be a simple story about two men who form a fast friendship on their way to run with the bulls. I’m very interested to know what Danny is hiding and what it is that forges a bond between Danny and Robert who seem so different on the surface! I like that the characters are men and I’m interested to see how there characters develop over the course of the book since I’m so used to reading about women.

    I really enjoyed your review! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention :o)

  6. June 13, 2011    

    Amy (Amy Reads): Thanks for stopping by!

    Pam: Yes, a bit of a Hemingway-esque type story 🙂

    El Fay: I know a lot of women seem to be struggling with the maleness of the story – but I agree – the tension in this book was good (and Danny’s story drives the narrative for sure).

    Heather: I hope you’ll like it – it is a quick read!

    Amy (House of Seven Tails): I also love the simplicity of the narrative which goes on to reveal a more complex story. Hope you’ll get a copy of the book – would love to know what you think of it!

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