The structure of "Cervantes Street" alternates chapters between the memoirs of Miguel Cervantes and his rich college friend Luis Lara (with the final chapter told by Lara’s secretary). The opening chapter of each friend sets the stage for what follows in the novel: Cervantes kills a man in a bar fight over his family’s honor and escapes to avoid imprisonment and having his right hand cut off. Lara, after finding out that Cervantes is in love with his intended fiancée, finances Cervantes’ escape, initially from Madrid and ultimately from Spain. What follows in Miguel’s chapters is a speculative biography touching on known points of his life and filling in the unknown with a possible narrative. The speculations include characters and incidents that surface in Cervantes’ plays and novels. Manrique covers Cervantes’ participation in the Battle of Lepanto and his captivity in Algiers for five years before returning to Spain.
While Miguel’s story proves interesting the addition of Luis Lara as Miguel’s archenemy, while almost comic-book like at times, provides the best twists and turns of the story. Lara’s hatred of Miguel colors almost everything he does, changing him into a bitter, warped man. Lara claims to have provided Miguel with the idea for "Don Quixote," although Cervantes’ section reflects how much was based on his own experiences.
Consistent with "Don Quixote," Manrique's novel contains a lot of irony. It’s a fun, sad story, often mixing both elements at the same time. Knowledge of Cervantes and his work isn’t necessary to enjoy "Cervantes Street," although it does help the reader understand more of the relevance of particular anecdotes and appreciate some of the storyline.
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