The Sound of Things Falling - Juan Gabriel Vásquez (2011)

Juan Gabriel Vásquez’ ‘The Sound of Things Falling’ is a masterful work that not only draws the reader through a gripping story of love, loss, drugs and crime spanning two generations living through Colombia’s tragic modern history, but also delivers a powerful commentary on fate and loss. It is a remarkably honest and humble representation of Colombia and it’s people and Vásquez’ passion, pride and, at times, pessimism about his nation seeps out at regular intervals throughout the novel.

The story begins in Bogotá, where apathetic professor Antonio Yammara witnesses a violent assassination of an acquaintance. The seemingly senseless murder haunts him and he embarks on journey of discovery that will lead him him to discover the stories, desires and struggles of those who lived through the tumultuous times that shaped modern Colombia.

As a work of prose, including the English translation which is excellent, Vásquez’ aptitude for penning vivid, and at times thrilling, descriptive passage are evident and thankfully applied with mature restraint. An ambitiously structured story that darts back and forth from the past to present day and deals with shifting protagonists could have easily fallen flat, yet Vásquez has managed to craft a seamless timeline, that leaves the reader engaged and involved at every turn.

Part thriller, part anthropological commentary and part existential discovery, The Sound of Things Falling is a stirring novel that resonates long after the final pages have been turned.

Alex Dobson (Sydney Chapter)