The Tale of Senyor Rodriguez is a novel that embodies a lot of the style and excess of its 1960s setting. We are carried on the back of Thomas Sebastian as he attempts to flee the law and go into hiding, abandoning his family and past life in England. After taking refuge in the still-furnished residence of the late Senyor Rodriguez, Thomas finds himself slowly but surely transformed. He starts to take upon the attributes of the dead man: his taste for art, wine and women, even taking the surreal twist of dressing in the departed’s clothing.
A blend of Mediterranean noir and romance, with a whiff of the gothic, The Tale of Senyor Rodriguez is wonderous and intoxicating— at times tense and fast paced, at others relaxed and subtle. The novel is so shrouded in mystery that as we progress we learn more of Thomas and Rodriguez, but the plot itself remains elusive right until the end. As the book progresses, Thomas finds himself more and more conflicted between remaining distant from the world so to protect his identity and a growing attraction to his friendly and enticing neighbour, Isabella.
Thomas is a cleverly constructed character. His frustrations and self-hatred only enhance to the reader his dependency on his vices— women, alcohol and cigarettes, showing that he isn’t in control of his own actions. Perhaps the most noted feature of the novel is its surprise twist, which warps the whole construction of the storyline and tempts the reader to delve into its pages once more. A second read of this novel is equally if not more rewarding than the first — a rarity.
Thomas engages in a lot of lies during the course of the novel, do you think the reason behind this is purely to hide his identity or do you think that in some cases these lies are too irrelevant and indicate a pathological tendency?
Did you feel empathy for the main character?
What was your take on the ending? How did you interpret it? What was the true identity of the central character?
How did the ending affect how you viewed Thomas and his personality previously?
How is the female sex portrayed in the book, namely through the most prominent female characters: Isabella, Marta, Susan, Maureen, Mrs Sebastian.
How influential is the setting of Mallorca on the plot of the novel?
Discuss other books with twists and how their authors hide / reveal information from the reader.
As Thomas’ money runs out his mental state deteriorates. He tries to finish Senyor Rodriguez’ book so that he can sell it to the agent in the city but he is drinking too heavily and starts to be visited by visions of Senyor Rodriguez.
After drinking in town Thomas attends a party at Isabella and Marta’s house attended by the academics, where Isabella overhears Thomas pretending to be Rodriguez. After the guests leave, Thomas and Marta fall out and start to argue over what is best for Isabella, with Thomas implying that Marta is controlling and selfish. Isabella suggests Thomas should leave and speaking with him alone, reveals that any romantic feelings she may have possessed for him were gone, although she considers him a friend. She also says that she knows Thomas hasn’t been honest with her and tells him the police came looking for his car believing it to be stolen from the Rodriguez family estate in Barcelona.
Isabella arrives at Ca’n Mola the next day with apologies from Marta. Thomas tells Isabella to pass on his apologies and regret as well. Isabella informs Thomas that she plans to leave for America shortly. Asking about Thomas’ plans, Thomas says that he will return home and reconcile with his wife, though Isabella says his car has been towed away.
The following day, Thomas finally finds a conclusion for Father Gomez, settles down at the typewriter and completes the manuscript. Then, in the evening, he entertains Isabella and Marta with a meal. Thomas dances with Isabella before saying their final goodbyes and she departs.
That night, Thomas receives another visitation from Senyor Rodriguez, who beckons Thomas to follow him into the study. There, Thomas is forced by Rodriguez to read the title of a dusty manuscript from one of the bookshelves, entitled The Tale of Thomas Sebastian. The manuscript contains an accurate biography of Thomas’ life. Thomas cries out, how could such a thing be, why did Rodriguez write about him and how did he manage to do so? As he gazes into a mirror Thomas observes that his appearance, with his additional weight and longer hair, now strongly resembles that of Rodriguez. He realises is Rodriguez, The memory of his wealth and his past life, leading up to him throwing himself off the cliffs returns to him.
Rodriguez/ Thomas hears the town’s procession up to the clifftops, and draping his sheet around him like a robe becomes now Father Gomez, another of his literary creations. He decides to start again, falling into the sea from the clifftops and killing off Rodriguez once more to take on the character of Father Gomez.
The Tale of Senyor Rodriguez is Lou Gilmond’s debut novel.