English translation: The broken angel
I’m not very fond of using the term “guilty pleasure” (why feeling guilty for something that gives you pleasure? Unless, of course, that’s murder o whatever else that harms other people. Then yes, you should feel guilty) but this kind of book would probably be the definition of mine.
I really like reading historical fiction, but to me that usually means just 19th century novels that were written in the 19th century, mostly because I believe those authors could write better about their own time than any other writer, centuries later, looking back, no matter how many time they spent researching. But that’s just my opinion (Burial Rites, reviewed next week, is an exception).
About this book… Julián, the only son of a wealthy traditional family from Buenos Aires, came back after xx years travelling around the world. He brought with him a chinese maid, who soothes his physical pains and sexual urges (of course). While visiting his father at the family’s countryside estancia, he meets a redheaded maid that completely captivates him! He can barely keeps his hands off of her, but she keeps refusing him (how odd!). During a visit to a photography studio he meets a mysterious widow, who then he found out is actually an artist-wannabe, well connected, sixteen year old girl in disguise, who has prophetic dreams (!!!!!!!). Because all these women-troubles are not enough, he has to deal with the fact the the only woman he has ever loved is happily married to his best friend (one of the reasons why he left the country). Meanwhile, his mother keeps nagging him to live with her in the city manor (he can’t, because of his secret chinese mistress) and his father keeps nagging him to get involve in a political party to defend his family’s economic interests at the city.
The story is setted in Buenos Aires, during Avellaneda’s presidency (1874-1880). It tries to depict the political discussions around Adolfo Alsina’s campaign to expand the civil population over the Patagonia and end with indigenous incursions and attacks. It also tries to show how the city’s population has increased enormously with the continual arrivals of european migration, and its clashes with high society and traditional gaucho lifestyle, as the government idea of modernization is expanding the lands for agriculture, farmed by foreign hands, in detriment of those used for cattle raising, Argentina’s main production back then. Themes such as human trafficking and prostitution are also mentioned.
The main problem I found in this novel, leaving aside Julián’s behaviour towards women and their constant need for his help, is that instead of taking a thorough view about one problematic of that time, it wants to tackle them all at once, and it ends up being very superficial. Same thing happens with the satellital characters. There are TOO MANY, and I couldn’t care less about them, which made the reading very tedious at some times.
I think it’s a great book for a vacation reading, empty minded, just like I did.