My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Around the World: 36 of 52 (Paraguay)
I don't know a lot about Paraguayan history, and while The News from Paraguay is historical fiction, there is a lot to learn in this brief novel. I felt like the setting was captured well, and Lily Tuck incorporated actual journal articles from two historical figures. The time period covered is the 19th century, specifically the rise and fall of Francisco Solano López. Unfortunately his rise and fall is also Paraguay's rise and fall, since by the time he was done with his leadership of the country, only about 25% of the country survived, and most of the males were gone.
Paraguay has been in the news recently as the former president was removed from office. I learned in the reading I've been doing that the majority of Paraguay's presidents have been forcibly removed from office. This book may give some insight into the relationships Paraguay has with its bordering nations, how it is viewed by Europe and North America, as well as how its own population (native and immigrant) reacts to the constant change. So on a historical level, the book is didactic and interesting, despite the fact that the author has never been to the country. It was also interesting to figure out where this fit into world history, as there were some mentions of the Civil War in the USA, issues of slavery, and so on.
From a writing standpoint, I can't say I enjoyed it as much. While the story is linear, it jumps around between situations and people, and although the story focuses on Ella, the Irish mistress of Franco and mother to many of his children, most of the stories are brief and not necessarily connected. I found the portrayal of some of the characters pretty unrealistic, and the mentions of sex awkward. I don't mind sex in a novel, but it usually serves to shed light on a relationship, and it was as if Lily Tuck wanted to keep the reader's interest by mentioning something about someone's 'member,' and yes, using that very term. I'd rather be interested by the story. I think it suffers from the focus on the outsider view, and would have been richer coming from the inside rather than the outside.
Up next: Some of the members of the Around the World group are doing a group read of The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. I've already two books about Chile this year, but this will be the first novel set there. It will just be nice to have a group read!
One more thing: If you have been reading these posts and wishing you had done a challenge like this, some of us will be doing something similar just with the USA in 2013. Come join us!