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Austen to Zafón

Reading widely since 1972.

Currently reading

A London Family, 1870-1900: A Trilogy
Molly Hughes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
All the Names
José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
Down the Garden Path
Beverley Nichols
Virtue Betray'd, Or, Anna Bullen
John Banks
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome
Illusion in java
Gene Fowler
The News from Paraguay - Lily Tuck At first I was intrigues with this book. The writing is descriptive and the details of life in Paris and South America at the end of the 19th century were interesting. The characters weren't very likeable (a woman who has renamed and reinvented herself several times, who is selfish and oblivious, and a man who views women mostly as an avenue for sex), but it was still fairly compelling.

The man (Franco), a young, egotistical and somewhat cruel diplomat from Paraguay, pursues the woman (Ella), quickly winning her and taking her to Paraguay along with her beloved horse, her maid, and a Spanish woman to teach Ella the language. His plan is to remake Paraguay when his father dies and he rules. Based on real events with some fictional characters thrown in, the story charts the stupidity and pig-headedness of Franco as, unprovoked, he goes to war against his neighbor Brazil, conscripting first all the men he can find, then the boys, and finally the women and the girls. Pretty much everyone dies and there is passage after graphic passage detailing the tortures, the rapes, the starvation, and the madness that ensue. About half way through, I had to start skimming because it was all so repetitive and crass. I could see they were all going to die and I didn't need the details of each specific death, especially of the children. The only death I read with relish was the death of Franco. I'm glad I skimmed so much and I wish I'd started skimming earlier or had perhaps never opened the damn thing at all.