My first Bolaño and certainly not the last. Unfortunately for Bolaño, my reading of The Skating Rink came on the tail end of reading a few exceptional works in a row. Thus, The Skating Rink only receives three stars.
The story itself was interesting, albeit none too exceptional. Where he scores high with me is in the narrative, or rather the narrators. Three different individuals narrate this story, which is hard to write. Unfortunately, while they start off with fairly distinct voices, they sort of mash together and lose their individuality as the story progresses. Towards the end, G and R sound very much alike.
Personally, I would have given a voice to Caridad, not only because she is a female, but because her perspective would have been much more interesting with all the inner conflicts, her past, and her attachment to the victim. As it stands, Bolaño started great but finished in a not-so-stellar way. This is something that could have been lost in translation, and I will attempt to find a copy in Spanish to see if he used local dialect words in the narrative, which would certainly give unique voices to the respective characters.
The scenery and general settings were well-executed. I would have liked him to elaborate more on the locals' mentality towards outsiders. Having lived in Spain, I know too well that immigrants such as the ones featured in this work are often looked at with distrust, and almost entirely segregated from native society. The conflict between Catalonians and Castilians was not explored to its full potential, even though he made it a point to mention it when someone was one or the other. At that time (and even nowadays) there was a great sense of nationalism and separatism.
Bolaño's prose has a nice quality to it, I must admit. I can only assume that his later works are even better. Occasionally, he flirts a little with surrealism, but not enough (for me) to deliver any profound impact.
Overall, The Skating Rink is a well-written story with a unique narrative. The characters are full-fleshed, the scenery is realistic, and the drama plausible. Although it left me a bit cold, I would still recommend this book, and I look forward to my next Bolaño read.