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Oliver, the main character in Michael Pilcher’s Lights of Valencia, spends a lot of time on the terrace of the cheap apartment that he rents with his girlfriend. Often at night, while smoking and looking at the stars, Oliver studies the old handmade blue tiles on the terrace. He creates different stories for each of them. One specific tile in the corner tells his uneasy story.
At age eighteen, trying to forget his traumatic childhood, Oliver runs from Oklahoma to Europe. Traveling without any particular purpose, he falls in love with Spain. In Valencia he meet Maria who falls in love with him. However, Oliver is afraid to trust anybody, even himself. He has suppressed a lot of his dreadful memories, but so many things remind him of Oklahoma.
Oliver isn’t able to escape his past and often wakes up from the same nightmarish dream. Oliver’s usual way of getting the nightmares out of his mind, alcohol and women, does not always work. The terrifying dreams intensify and become truly vivid when Oliver and Maria visit her small birth town where her hardworking family and friends welcome him. The culmination comes at Fallas, Valencia’s annual fiesta. Can Oliver get rid of his bad memories by the end of the fiesta? Who can he trust?
Oliver’s problematic story can be credited to the author’s style. Sometimes sounding like a laboratory report, Pilcher’s consistent but heavy narration could be justified by the seriousness of the issues with which Oliver deals. It could be assumed that the intensive use of unexplained Spanish words is supposed to underline the story’s authenticity and express its hero’s frequent inability to shed light on and understand his own deeds and thoughts. Can Oliver be helped? In our complicated world readers will sympathize with Oliver and his troubled love story.
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