It’s May. The perfect time to go to Lanzarote. However, this isn’t your typical trip to the island. We are here to find a missing local artist.
A Matter of Latitude* by Isobel Blackthorn starts with local Lanzarote anti-corruption activist, Celestino, being T-boned on a lonely stretch of road. However, this collision is certainly no accident. Celestino takes refuge in an abandoned fishing village, while his wife, English expat Paula, is distraught when he fails to show up for their daughter’s birthday party. Paula’s search for her husband quickly descends into mayhem, danger and intrigue. Before long, she realizes she’s being followed. She needs answers, and fast.
A Matter of Latitude shows Lanzarote in a light I’ve never seen before. First, in terms of imagery. As a tourist, I never visited the north of the island and it was interesting to read about the daily life of locals. Secondly, was through the tropical storm that occurs at the beginning of the story. The ignorant part of me never imagined that the island could have terrible weather like that, nor did I ever consider how it would affect local life.
However, it was the commentary on Lanzarote’s politics that opened my eyes the most. The author is actually a resident of the island for the insight into corruption was detailed. It backhanders politicians are taking from businessmen who want to illegally cash in from the tourism industry are nothing new in comparison to the rest of the world but are shocking just the same. The fact that much of the available funding goes to non-natives shows that politics is everywhere in the world, even on small, magical islands. Also, the heavy focus on the negative effects of tourism on the island made me consider my trips there from another point of view.
I guess you can tell from those last paragraphs that A Matter of Latitude is quite a heavy read. This doesn’t change with the fictional aspect of the book, the characters. The story of Celestino and Paula is not a typical love story. Through Paula’s chapters, we get the feeling that she doesn’t love her husband at all, that she moved to the island on a whim and things would likely have fizzled out had she not fallen pregnant. More importantly, through Paula’s telling of the story, we learn exactly why some people might be out to get Celestino, more than when Celestino tells the story himself.
I like these heavy stories so the themes of corruption and so on didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. However, I was a bit disappointed that nothing very thrilling occurs. I was expecting something a bit more dramatic to happen from reading the book’s blurb and the wonderful way the author was able to portray the bleak side of the island through her writing. Nevertheless, it taught me a lot about Lanzarote that I didn’t know before. Picking up this book wasn’t a disappointment.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.