by Nicholas Shakespeare ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 8, 1990
The third book by Shakespeare, literary editor of the Daily Telegraph, but the first to be published here: an eloquent first novel that brings to life the strife-ridden Peru of the 1980's. Shakespeare writes with an elegance and a flair for scene-painting unusual in a tale so drenched in harsh actuality--and his story of the great love between a revolutionary of Chinese immigrant descent, Gabriel Lung, and a religious young woman, Elena Silves, is a compelling one. The only caveat is the suspicion here and there that the characters are derived, at least in part, from other literature: the book's modest, awkward American priest, for example, who's living out his days serving the indians in the jungle, could easily have stumbled out of a Graham Greene novel. But Shakespeare, of course, is following in Greene's footsteps in casting a humane eye on the interpenetration of Catholicism and revolution in a Third World country; he focuses here on a jungle town, Belen (a variation of Bethlehem), which enjoyed prosperity during the rubber boom early in the century but now is down at the heel except for money from the cocaine trade. The author makes deft poetry out of the sights, sounds, and smells of this milieu--while three old men who hang out in the town square serve as a Greek chorus, commenting on the young lovers. Elaine stirs up the town when she has a vision, thought to be of the Virgin Mary, and is spirited away to a convent by a worldly priest who doesn't know how to handle a here-and-now act of faith. Meanwhile, Gabriel joins the Shining Path, the Maoist group whose faith is in the power of violence to bring about a Peru worthy of the descendants of the Incas. The CatholicÃ¯sm and the revolutionary ideology that keeps the lovers apart also give them stature. The reader is made to care whether human love will also play a role among those absolutes, and whether the two will find their way back to each other. A finely crafted work that gets the pulses racing--and even gringo readers will feel close to Peru as they turn the last page.
Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1990
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990
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