3 out of 5: Nada is a coming-of-age novel about an 18-year-old orphan, Andrea, who moves from the Spanish countryside to Barcelona to live with her hyper-religious aunt, abusive uncles, and confused grandmother. Although Andrea has escaped her provincial background, the once-grand house of her relatives is now dirty and decaying. In the post-Civil-War Barcelona of the 1940s, food is scarce, and Andrea’s relatives spend most of their time bickering and beating each other or chastising Andrea.
Nada is bleak, but Andrea’s cool, somewhat detached first-person narrative makes the dark situation more bearable. Edith Grossman’s translation vividly evokes the beauty and mystery of Barcelona, along with its decrepitude. More than the flesh-and-blood characters in this novel, Barcelona is a living, breathing force. This is an enjoyable read, particularly for those interested in Barcelona and its history.