Monday, November 25, 2019

The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck

They met in Paris in 1854.  Ella Lynch is a courtesan who has been with several men but is at loose ends and looking for support.  Francisco Solano is a young brash man, rich and exploring Europe.  He is instantly smitten with Ella and soon she is his; the deal sealed with the purchase of her beloved horse, Mathilde.  Francisco loves being in Europe where he can have anything he likes and is admired by everyone but his father is the President of Paraguay and when he insists on Francisco's return, he must obey.  He decides to take Ella with him.

She packs up and goes, thinking she will probably stay for only a while.  Instead, she stays with Francisco through his rise to become the dictator of Paraguay.  They never marry due to his family's disapproval of Ella but they remain lovers and have a large family.  She is his closest confidante and the only person he trusts consistently over the years.  He falls out with most people, condemning his enemies to torture and death, even members of his own family.

As the years go by, Francisco becomes steadily more determined to control everything around him.  This leads him to enter a deadly war with the neighboring countries and to refuse to see that the war is going badly and he needs to talk terms.  Finally, his time is done and so is his love affair with Ella, who returns with her surviving children to France.

This is an interesting historical fiction about a time and place most people are not that familiar with.  The characters are roughly drawn and it is difficult to understand what turns Francisco into the monster he becomes from the debonair young man who won Ella's heart.  It is a bleak view of human relationships and a eye-opening view of the difficulty of everyday life in many countries at this time period.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

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