Learning to Lose: Book summary and reviews of Learning to Lose by David Trueba

Learning to Lose

A Novel

By David Trueba

Learning to Lose
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2010,
    608 pages.

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Book Summary

From one of Spain’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Learning to Lose is a lucid and gripping view into the complexities of lives overturned and into the capriciousness of modern life, with its intoxicating highs and devastating lows.

It is Sylvia’s sixteenth birthday, and her life as an adult is about to begin—not with the party she had been planning, but with a car accident and a broken leg. Behind the wheel is a talented young soccer player, just arrived from Buenos Aires and set for stardom on and off the field. As their destinies collide and a young romance is set in motion, across town, Sylvia’s father and grandfather are finding their own lives suddenly derailed by a violent murder and a secret affair with a prostitute.

Set against the maze of Madrid’s congested and contested streets, Learning to Lose follows these four individuals as they swerve off course in unexpected directions. Each of them is dodging guilt and the fear of failure, but their shared search for happiness, love, purity, redemption, and, above all, a way to survive, forms a taut narrative web that binds the characters together.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"An elegantly written, well-thought-through coming-of-age novel, with the requisite furtive embraces, broken hearts and missed signals." - Kirkus Reviews

"One part Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, one part Paul Haggis' Crash, the rest is all David Trueba, modern day Madrid, and a narrative that pulsates with longing, lust and simmering rage. Don't dare pick it up if you have plans for the weekend, or for the rest of the day for that matter. It's that good. I was casting the adaptation in my mind as I tore through it. Vivid, real and raw, the novel is at once unsparing and entirely humane. Simply masterful." - Joe McGinniss, Jr., author of The Delivery Man
 
"Learning to Lose is complex, powerful, surprising and most of all smart. David Trueba is the real thing. I had a lot of work on my desk and it is still on my desk. I have however read Mr. Trueba's novel. Enough said." - Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

"A profound novel, charged with emotional intelligence." - La Razón

"David Trueba has devised a complex tale about our present: about old age, about lost illusions, about illness, about what it’s like to be an immigrant ... There's no lasting bitterness in Learning to Lose. There's injustice, there's a certain psychological and physical cruelty. But no bitterness. There is sadness in some of those who win. And, above all, the silent wisdom of those who bear the consequences of what befalls them. An excellent novel." - El País

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Hydee F. (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Learning to Lose
I procrastinated in starting this book because I didn't think I was going to enjoy it, but I was very, very wrong. I could not put this book down once I started it!

Trueba writes in such a raw, and real way, revealing the best and worst of each of his characters in a way that makes you feel compassion for them and their story. I was actually embarrassed for them at times. Each of the character's stories were enthralling, but in the end, I wanted more of Sylvia! I want to watch this young woman grow up and see how the rest of her journey turns out.

This was a marvelous read, I wish more of Mr. Trueba's work was translated to English!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Claire M. (Hilton Head, SC)
Learning to Lose
A great read! A story of 3 generations of a Spanish family in Madrid and the ramifications of choices they’ve made. Fate has certainly set before them incidents that lead to those choices and the questions of immigration and sport as business are issues in the background.

Lorenzo retreats from Aurora's impending death by becoming overly fascinated with an African prostitute. Leandro, who has murdered his former business partner and whose wife Pilar has left him, becomes involved with an Ecuadoran au pair and daughter Sylvia is hit by a car driven by Ariel, a newly arrived Argentinean soccer player. The novel centers primarily on where the choices lead Lorenzo, Leandro, Sylvia and Ariel.

The questions and problems of each couple are timeless and Trueba (with his able translator) has written a beautiful novel, which speaks to the truth of who we are and how we define, or are defined by, our relationships. This is a novel to be read by anyone who likes to keep up with European literature as well as book clubs interested in exploring generational choices in living, and finding comfort in life.

Rated 1 of 5 of 5 by Jane R. (Plantation, FL)
Just could not get into it
I have picked this book up several times to read it and I have just not been able to get into it. I've read about 50 pages, which isn't much, but usually I should be engaged with the characters, plot or something by this point, but so far - nothing.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Bonnie B. (Fairbanks, AK)
Living and Losing
Learning to Lose has an interesting narrative but I feel like the novel was blunted somewhat by the translation. I believe that it would read more fluently in Spanish. The story is about an inter-generational family. There is Sylvia, 16 years old, who gets run over by Ariel, a 20 year-old soccer player from Argentina. They begin an intense relationship. Lorenzo, Sylvia's father, is raising Sylvia primarily by himself as his wife left him for another man. He is also dealing with the after-effects of murdering his ex-business partner. Then there is Leandro, Sylvia's grandfather, who is caught up in a web of sexual addiction. He loves his wife but can't stop himself from spending all of his money on a Nigerian prostitute. The chapters are told from the perspectives of different characters, a technique I enjoy. Soccer enthusiasts will especially enjoy this novel.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Patricia K. (Los Angeles, California)
Learning to Lose
I started the book several times, and almost put it down, not getting beyond the first chapter. The third time, I fell in love with this book. The story is told of four connected characters, from different generations, all searching for a lasting human connection.

Trueba explores themes of immigration, aging, loneliness, and the angst of teenage years against the background of Madrid. His characters are rich and he draws you into caring for them, despite their flaws.

Overall a very satisfying read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Denice B. (Fort Bragg, CA)
Learning to Lose
The language of Learning to Lose is wonderful (is it the writer, translator, or both?), though the book is a little too long. At about page 150, I wanted things to move along a bit more, but all in all, a uniquely woven story with well-developed characters, most of whom I cared about.

...14 more reader reviews

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David Trueba was born in Madrid in 1969 and has been successful both as a novelist and as a screenwriter. La buena vida was his widely acclaimed debut as a film director and was followed by Obra maestra, Soldados de Salamina, Bienvenido a casa, and La silla de Fernando. He is the author of two previous novels, Cuatro amigos and Abierto toda la noche. Learning to Lose won the Critics Award in 2009 and marks Trueba’s English-language debut.

Mara Faye Lethem translates from Spanish and Catalan, including authors such as Albert Sánchez Piñol, Juan Marsé, Javier Calvo, Patricio Pron, and Pablo DeSantis. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she has lived in Barcelona since 2003.

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