Las Viudas de los Jueves by Claudia Piñeiro was the third novel I read to complete the Argentinian Reading Challenge. This was also my favourite of the three. Las Viudas de los Jueves is a sharp, witty and at times funny, at times dark and bitter tale of life in one of Argentina’s gated communities in the 1990s and early 2000s. The inhabitants of the apparently idyllic Altos de la Cascada are the very wealthy nouveaux riches of Argentina. The have a wonderful, luxurious lifestyle, which they want to keep to themselves. Hence the need to live in a gated community.
The novel focuses on the fortunes and misfortunes of a small group of families. The husbands meet every Thursday, which leads the wives to refer to themselves as the Thursday night widows. Of course behind the façade of immaculate perfection which Altos de la Cascada presents to the outside world, there lies a world of deceit, corruption, unhappiness and cruelty. And it is this underworld which the novel explores and dissects. The novel opens with the mysterious deaths of three of the Thursday night husbands and ends with the frightening and disturbing revelation of what actually happened to the three men.
In between we get to know the intimate secrets of the various inhabitants of Altos de la Cascada. This is revealed to us via three different narrators. All seem to be residents in Altos and all three are almost certainly women – perhaps all are Thursday night widows. One certainly is. Virginia, or Mavi as she calls herself professionally, is the only one we know by name. She also has the privileged role of narrating the first and concluding chapters. She writes in the first person singular. The second narrator who is another resident also writes in the first person, but this time in the plural. She writes about what we did or saw. It is never clear just who this we is – the other Thursday night widows?, or some of the other women who live in Altos? Another mysterious element to the novel. The third narrator is perhaps the most mysterious of all as s/he writes in the third person singular. We have no indication of who this third narrator is. Another resident?
I found this approach of using three different and somewhat mysterious narrators one of the keys to the success of the novel. We get three different perspectives, but, apart from Virginia, have no way of knowing who is offering these versions of what happens. It all helps to build up the tension as the lives of the inhabitants begin to unravel and the terrible truth emerges. Very good novel. I read the Spanish language version, which I found quite easy to follow. The style of all three narrators is simple and direct. I look forward to other novels by Claudia Piñeiro. The book has been translated into English under the title Thursday Night Widows. It has also been made into a film in Argentina, where it was directed by the author’s husband Marcelo Piñeiro.