I had never heard of Claudia Piñeiro before I saw her book All Yours reviewed on Guy’s blog. I wanted to read more Latin American literature this year and an Argentinian crime novel sounded like a good start.
All Yours, or Tuya as it is called in Spanish, is as entertaining as it is amusing. It introduces us to the world of Inés, a middle-aged housewife, mother of Lali and wife of Ernesto. A real perfectionist when it comes to her home and keeping up appearances, a master in the art of self-delusion. More than once while reading I was exclaiming “What a nutter”. Of course I was glad that she was such a nutter as this is why Tuya is so entertaining.
When Inés discovers a lipstick-written note, a heart signed “All Yours”, in her husbands briefcase, we are at first startled to hear that she doesn’t think it’s all that bad. After all, she believes, sooner or later all men cheat on their wives. The outcome purely depends on how gracefully the wife handles it.
Since her own unfaithful father left her mother after having been confronted with his infidelity, Inés decides not to act but to observe. One night when her husband is called to his office – there seems to be a computer related emergency which happens quite frequently -, she follows him. Of course he doesn’t drive to the office and Inés observes him while he meets with his secretary in Palermo Park. They are fighting and at one point Ernesto pushes the secretary away. The woman trips, falls and breaks her neck in the fall. How wonderful, Inés thinks, she will help her husband to cover up the whole incident. She will provide him with an alibi… But for the time being, she stays in the dark, drives home and doesn’t say a word that she has watched everything. Inés is happy, she believes that the secretary was Ernesto’s lover, and now that she is dead, nothing can separate them anymore. Right? Not quite, as we will see and from here on, things do not go as planned at all.
This isn’t the only instance in which Inés is wrong and we start to learn that absolutely nothing is at is seems in this novel and that what Inés pretends to be a picture book family is in reality rotting from the inside.
All Yours is told in alternating points of view. The most important parts are Inés’ first person narratives. Being a highly unreliable narrator, she tries to pretend everyting is fine until the very end of the book. Other parts of the story focus on Lali, Inés’ daughter. They are in dialogue form and reveal that the daughter has as much to hide as her parents but that she knows everyting about the two of them. Lali blames and hates her mother more than anyone else and towards the end of the book we realize she may have reason. Some of the chapters are police reports and third person narratives. Each of these elements together give the reader the full picture.
All Yours reminded me a lot of German crime writer Ingrid Noll’s novels in which seemingly harmless and invisible women start to develop their criminal and vengeful side. They are perfectionists, driven by an urge to save appearances at any price. We don’t warm to these women, we don’t feel for them but we enjoy the delicious frisson that we experience while following them on their journey towards retribution.