‘Barcelona Dreaming’ by Rupert Thomson – Day and Night Life in Barcelona


‘Barcelona Dreaming’, stories, by Rupert Thomson (2021) – 215 pages


Rupert Thomson lived in Barcelona, Spain, from 2004 to 2010. Thomson created the first draft of these three stories while still living in Barcelona.

Barcelona is a seaport on the Mediterranean in northern Spain. It is in a region near the Pyrenees called Catalonia and they speak their own language Catalan. It is the fifth largest city in the European Union with over five and a half million people, and in many ways it resembles the towns and cities along the southern coast of France and the French Riviera more than the rest of Spain.

The three stories are “The Giant of Sarria”, “The King of Castelldefels”, and The Carpenter of Montjuic”. I suppose Sarria, Castelldefels, and Montjuic are place names in or near Barcelona.

The stories are all written in the first person. Each is about 70 pages long, and I would consider them long stories rather than novellas. All of the stories center around somewhat odd offbeat relationships between men and women.

In the first story, a woman in her forties tells of her love affair with a young guy in his early twenties from Morocco. She lives in a fashionable section of Barcelona; he lives in a slum where mostly illegal immigrants live. While one of her friends try to dissuade her, she continues the affair.

I felt the part of me that might have questioned what I was doing fly off into the night, fast as a flung stone.”

In the second story, it’s the other way around. A 65 year-old man tells of his affair with a Brazilian woman in her thirties who has a 10 year-old son.

The third story is not about an affair. A man becomes friends with another guy who lives in his apartment building who intrigues him.

What if in a roundabout, almost allegorical way he was trying to warn me about himself? At first glance, he might seem open and accessible, someone you could talk to, but he was capable of unexpected and terrifying transformations.”

These stories share a distinctive enigmatic exotic atmosphere which I suppose is Barcelona. That some of the same peripheral characters float through the three stories somewhat loosely ties them together. Notice that on the cover above are the words “a novel”. Hardly.

These stories capture the lives of these diverse characters in this city of Barcelona without trying to instruct us with a moral or any other lesson. I’m too old to learn anything so I actually prefer fiction that doesn’t try to teach me lessons.


Grade:    A-



6 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve had my eye on this one for a few months now. I’m a bit hesitant, primarily because I just have so many unread books now. Also, I’ve never read anything by Thomson, although I’ve been skimming reviews of his work for quite some time. A collection of longish, non-didactic stories might, however, be just what I need right now, to read between longer works.
    So funny about the “novel” label attached by the publishers to this collection! I’m thinking, of course, of our prior exchange on the topic of loosely linked short stories being passed off as novels. I really do believe this is a current publishing trend!

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Janakay,
      Yeah, I suppose it is really difficult to market a collection of separate short stories today, so both the publishers and even the writers themselves go to great lengths to turn their works into novels. I myself like to read story collections about the same as novels. My only hesitation about fiction is really long works, more than 400 pages, for which I set a higher bar than shorter works.
      Rupert Thomson has sort of been considered an underrated journeyman writer, but he’s advancing up the ranks.

      Liked by 1 person


      • Yes, you are right, I think, about marketers trying to have the best of both markets. It’s made me wary because I do prefer a well-crafted novel and I’d rather spend my time on that.
        Still, a setting in Barcelona appeals. I have such wonderful memories of my time there, and I like revisiting places I’ve been to through fiction especially if I learn more about the place than I already knew. You don’t say much about the setting and that’s another thing that makes me wary. So many authors writing about places they’ve only ever been to via Google!

        Liked by 2 people


        • Hi Lisa,
          Rupert Thomson lived in Barcelona for six years from 20a4 to 2010, and he wrote these stories just before he left, so he does know Barcelona. I don’t know why they weren’t published sooner. Maybe they finally figured out how to build connections between the stories so they could call it a novel. 🙂



  2. I really like Rupert Thomson’s novels so this is very appealing.

    Liked by 1 person


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