On the first few pages of All Yours Inés, the heroine and part-time narrator, finds out her husband is cheating on her and witnesses as he accidentally kills his lover.
Claudia Piñeiro doesn’t beat around the bush, she opens with a bang and keeps the suspense rising. She barely leaves you any time to catch your breath. All Yours is a rollercoaster ride. You go up, down, left and right, faster and faster. And then, before you know it, barely 170 pages later, it’s all over.
Our main companion on this ride is Inés, a chatty narrator – the kind whose self-righteous ramblings we are sometimes forced to listen to when stuck in a queue in the supermarket. She is calculating and obsessed with appearances and she would be excruciatingly boring if it wasn’t for the fact she found herself in this rather complicated situation involving infidelity, obsession and murder. I found it amusing to watch her ‘keep calm and carry on’ while her world literally falls into pieces. Yet, the only thing she is concerned with is maintaining the cozy status quo. When she first finds a proof of her husband’s adultery she says:
“My instinct was to throw it in his face, to say ‘What is this, you piece of shit?!’ Fortunately, I chose instead to count to ten, took a deep breath – and did nothing at all.”
Throughout the book Inés goes a long way to do nothing at all. Her reasoning soon takes on psychotic characteristics and as she spirals out of control she reminds me of Juan Pablo Castel from the novel The Tunnel written by another Argentinean writer – Ernesto Sabato.
“All that mattered was to be vigilant, to be sure that the relationship was not developing. So I started going through his pockets, opening his mail, keeping an eye on his diary, listening in on the extension when was on the telephone. The kinds of things that any woman in my situation would do.”
No, lady. You’re just crazy. She claims she knows her husband better than anyone because she knows all his habits and pet-peeves.Yet, he doesn’t come across as a real person in her narrative. He is just a husband-figure without any human shape. It is difficult to imagine that Inés loves him as she seems to be deprived of any feelings and her only driving force is the self-preservation instinct.
The real victim in this crime story is Lali, Inés and Ernesto’s sixteen year old daughter. She barely exists in her mother’s narrative and we get to know her through the conversations she holds with her friends and strangers. And even then we learn more about her through the meaningful ellipses. And we soon realise that Lali is pregnant, something her mother failed to notice too busy covering up the illicit affairs of her husband.
All Yours, while pretending to be a crime novel, is really a take on the all time favourite literary theme: the decay of the middle class. So much has been written on the subject that it is very hard to bring something new to table. While not terribly original, this portrait is still very accurate. The story is strong and interesting but the novella seems rushed. I wish Claudia Piñeiro slowed down and let everything sink in before throwing in another twist. It was a very enjoyable read but frustrating at the same time because of its sparseness. One thing is certain, though, Piñeiro is not one your usual creative writing course bred crime authors. But we have a lifetime supply of these.