Shadow of a Bull

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“In Spain, people have found a way of cheating death. They summon it to appear in the afternoon in the bull right, and they make it face a man. Death–a fighting bull with horns as weapons–is killed by a bullfighter. And the people are there watching death being cheated of its right.”

I don’t know anything about blood sports. I don’t know why they’re popular. I was only tangentially aware of the existence of bullfighting until I picked up this novel. I still don’t think I’ll ever get cockfighting, but I think I understand something about bullfighting now.

There are books that are filled with details about something we don’t run across in our everyday lives–the complete history of Prague architecture, the particular practices of a random sports team, the mechanics of survival on Mars. This book is chock full of bullfighting, allows itself to get lost in the beauty (and, sometimes, the pain) of this death-defying sport.

And, quite apart from all that, it’s a book about a boy in Spain coming to understand who his father was, and how to come to terms with himself.

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