The Last Night I Spent With You by Mayra Montero

The Last Night I Spent With You is a slim volume, only 115 pages. Translated from the Spanish, Montero’s novel tells the story of Celia and Fernando – a middle-aged couple on a cruise. Their only daughter has just been married and Fernando’s friend, Bermudez, has sagely offered this advice: “women lose their inhibitions on ships.”

Actually, it seems as though everyone does.

Both Fernando and Celia are trying to come to terms with suddenly being cut loose from the strings that tied them to their daughter and each other. Fernando, too, seems to be experiencing a bit of a midlife crisis: death is looming. As their ship sails and docks, Fernando falls into an affair with Julieta, a middle-aged passenger.  For her part, Celia reminisces about an affair she’d had several years ago, when she’d been taking care of her ailing father.

Everything about this voyage is sexually charged in a way, one gathers, things haven’t been for several years between this married couple.

At last we were alone, it was true, after almost twenty-three years of winters and vacations, springs and birthdays, when Elena had been the axis of our lives. Elena growing up, becoming pretty, becoming taller than Celia, much more slender, infinitely more flirtatious. Our daughter Elena.

The Last Night I Spent With You is graphic and the writing is – despite it being a translation – good. The characters are selfish and often  behave inappropriately. It’s hard to say what they are searching for. It’s even harder to say whether, by the novel’s end, they’ve found it.

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