Saturday, June 06, 2009


Lima Nights, Marie Arana, The Dial Press, 2009, 246 pp

Marie Arana's third book was not a hit with me. The plot is unoriginal, the writing is banal, the dialogue not realistic to the characters. Thankfully it was short and I got it over with in a day.

I am not generally in favor of snarkiness, but here I must indulge. Arana has been an editor-in-chief of the "Washington Post Book World"; she is married to a reviewer for that publication, Jonathan Yardley. From those facts I assume that she has read and reviewed many books. She has also written a memoir and a previous novel. She is not a very good writer. What up? My snarky assumption is that she has connections in publishing that got her published.

The story takes place in Lima, Peru. Carlos Bluhm (of German descent, married with two sons, not rich but well-off) begins an affair with Maria Fernandez, a dirt poor dark-skinned native Peruvian teenager, whom he meets at a tango bar. The affair ruins his marriage, his family, his life.

Perhaps there are men as unaware and easily fooled as Carlos. Perhaps there are young women as desperate and determined as Maria. I am sure there are. But these characters are so flat, so not well developed, that it is hard to believe in their actions and feelings or to care about what happens to them.

If you want to read about the tragedies, inequalities and oppressions of Peru, about adventures in love between disparate people, I recommend Isabel Allende's Eva Luna and Of Love and Shadows or Daniel Alarcon's Lost City Radio. Of course, if you really want to go deep in South American fiction, go directly to Jorge Amado, Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

This book is available in hardcover by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.

1 comment:

  1. I too read this book, but did not hate it. I agree the writing wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't horrible either. Though the male characters were despicable, Maria and the wives were sympathetic and I think it was a fairly realistic portryal of how people are. Also, it left open the possibillity that Carlos and Maria might finaly communicate and reunite at the end.