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On the Precipice of the Labyrinth by Brian Snowden

Simply engrossing, filled with individual drama and historical intrigue…

A young man from America crosses the Atlantic Ocean to Spain and months of personal upheavals in Snowden’s engrossing debut. 1930s. Charlottesville graduate William Benning, son of a Virginia professor who immigrated to America from Spain in the early 1900s, is keen to experience European culture. William is well-versed in Spanish and knows quite a bit about the political situation in Europe, owing to his father’s position as a professor at the University of Virginia. So, visiting Spain seems like a fine idea. He crosses the Atlantic working on a cargo ship to reach northern France and eventually arrives in Spain, unaware of the life-altering events that will change his perspective about certain things forever. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once William arrives in Spain, the stakes get higher, as does the tension in the story. William’s first-person narrative voice is engaging. Snowden artfully brings the Spanish culture to life as seen through the eye of a foreigner, delving into the wanderlust of experiencing exotic places and cultures. Throughout William’s grueling journey are hundreds of colorful details, such as the farmers in carriages drawn by horses, the small towns with their early twentieth-century charm, medieval Cathedrals, the rough terrains of the beleaguered Basque country among others. Snowden’s contribution to the Civil War literature in Spain involves almost no depiction of actual fighting but rather its effect on people’s everyday lives as seen through his characters’ eyes, including innocents getting shot or taken prisoners, terribly scarred victims, and the almost equally traumatized survivors who have seen their loved ones getting brutally killed. While there’s no lack of incidence in this historical tale, Snowden’s emphasis on depicting the events in telling instead of showing deprives the book somewhat of narrative power. However, he is an engaging storyteller: he paints the historical backdrop of the Spanish Civil War with utmost skill and precision, and his characterization is excellent. Among the vast cast of characters, it is Williams who stands out the most. He is a deftly drawn character—he is sensitive, introspective, and a romantic at heart, and after spending time in Spain, he comes out as a self-centered, naive young man who has his own notions about the world around him.  With a focus on the individual desires and wants, broadening horizons, and romanticism versus reality, this well-researched, engrossing tale provides a compelling portrait of life abroad in 1930’s Spain.

On the Precipice of the Labyrinth

Brian Snowden

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Primedia eLaunch LLC

Pub date January 13, 2022

ISBN 979-8885250979

Price $15.99 (USD) Paperback, $0.00 Kindle edition

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