A story teller falls in love with a story
Murder, revenge, bankruptcy, love of family. These are some plot elements in this true story all set against the unforgiving Castile landscape where old castles are falling to bits and villages are slowly draining of people and even more slowly recovering from years of Franco's oppression. Since Franco's death in the mid 70's the country is looking to the future and individuals are trying to rebuild better lives by making money any which way they can yet the old values of loyalty to the land and to family still hold.
Ambrosio is a farmer who's always been a farmer and always wanted to be a farmer. He loves the land. He decides to revive making a traditional family cheese and he not only warms his father's heart (who loves and has missed the cheese he mother used to make) but he's successful behind his imagination...almost. "The Telling Room" is his tale as told to an American journalist, Michael Paterniti. Paterniti has tasted Ambrosio's legendary cheese years ago in the states decides to visit Ambrosio in search of a story. He sure finds one. Ambrosio is a bigger than life character and, as many Spaniards, he loves to tell stories while sitting in his bodega or traditional cave like structure where he stores and ages the wine and cheese he makes on his land. His bodega abuts many other family's bodegas and they often visit one another to share their stories and to share wine and food. It's a way of life. Paterniti is entranced. In a way he falls in love or at least brotherhood with Ambrosio but as a professional he needs to get the whole story and this involves hearing other sides to the tale including Ambrosio's sworn enemy, his former best friend and business partner, Julian. Paterniti is in a quandary emotionally feeling disloyal to Ambrosio by checking his story yet feeling professionally obligated to speak with Julian.
I'm sure my description is not doing justice to "Telling" though it's one of my top reads for 2013. Paterniti's writing style is engaging, he spools out just enough of the story to keep us engaged yet continually alludes to what will come and what the consequences are or might be. Spain itself and the outlying areas of Madrid where the events take place are as much a character as the people who are involved. It's a very human story told with clarity and with compassion. I dare you not to care about Ambrosio, his family, his community, and his cheese.