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Review: In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomas Gonzalez

It was the physicality of Tomas Gonzalez’s novel that first made me pick up In the Beginning Was the Sea  in a London bookstore. It’s a Pushkin Collection edition, smaller than the conventional book size and with an elegant, tactile cover with French flaps. The biography at the back of the book provided a level of intrigue: “He (Gonzalez) studied Philosophy before becoming a barman in a Bogota nightclub, whose owner published In the Beginning Was the Sea, his first novel …” Bar owner as publisher?

Jaded intellectuals, J and Elena, abandon their middle-class existence in Medellin for

Cartagena, a captivating mix of history, vibrant colours and laid-back way of life


It’s love. Cartagena, the vibrant, historic walled city on the Caribbean coast ofIMG_1535 Colombia. Half of me wants to shout it from the rooftops and tell the whole world. The other half wants to keep it quiet lest popularity spoils its charm. It was once Spain’s main port and gateway to the Americas for bringing in slaves and was the central bank of the Spanish colonial world repatriating looted gold back to the homeland. After being continually besieged by pirates and would-be invaders, the Spanish protected its most important city by building Las Murallas, a circle of thick stonewall. Today that wall, most of which still stands, provides visitors with an ideal platform for walking around the city never far from the ocean glistening in the sunshine.

Cartagena’s sleepy laid-back atmosphere, narrow streets IMG_1541and elegant, authentic
architecture make it a joy to simply mooch around. Set off walking without intent or purpose and you will find treasures at every turn. The city’s houses are painted a kaleidoscope of colours, the charming balconies often festooned with flowers and, at night, lanterns. Peek inside the huge wooden porticos and you will see fountains and statues; duck down an alleyway and there will be a tiny cafe, bar or little shop. 


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