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At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel Hardcover – October 31, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: A young man, hopelessly in love with his ex-girlfriend, lands a part in a revival of a controversial political drama. He journeys with his childhood hero, the playwright, through tiny towns scattered along the sparsely-populated mountainside. This hardly seems like the normal territory of a thriller but At Night We Walk in Circles delivers suspense to spare with tightly-written narratives, modern phrasing, and crisp character studies by Peruvian-born author Daniel Alarcón. Told through the eyes of a narrator who sprinkles in knowing tidbits about the ultimate fate of the young man, the story builds in momentum while simultaneously taking quiet forays into a world of dashed dreams, complex family obligations, and everyday dilemmas that are relatable even when set in an unnamed, Latin American metropolis or an eerily empty village. At Night We Walk in Circles pointedly delves into universal themes: life as merely a series of performances and small gestures that have inexplicable consequences. Like moths to a flame, it's the desire to blindly follow that will ultimately lead to our downfall. --Bora McAteer

From Publishers Weekly

In Alarcón's (Lost City Radio) novel, Nelson is a young actor living in a nameless Latin American country. He is happy to learn that he has been selected to join Diciembre, a guerrilla theatre troupe. He will be performing in a politically incendiary play called The Idiot President. Accompanying him is the playwright, Henry Nuñez, who was jailed for the original production. Nelson says goodbye to his widowed mother and his girlfriend, Ixta, and embarks on his theatrical journey. In one town, Henry pays a visit to the family of his former cellmate and lover, Rogelio, and commits an incredible faux pas, which presents Nelson with the opportunity to play the part of a lifetime. He eventually returns to the city, where he finds that Ixta is pregnant by his rival, Mindo. What follows is a series of misunderstandings that leads to the book's final, ironic act. Nelson's story is told by an unnamed narrator whose intrusions telegraph that the protagonist's story might not end well. Much of the book reads like a needlessly protracted warm-up for Nelson's coup de thétre, and what follows is too melodramatic for the reader to take entirely seriously. Still, Alarcón recreates the tense atmosphere of what it is like to live in a country where words have consequences. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Nov.)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (October 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594631719
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594631719
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Evie Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the epigraphs for Daniel Alarcon's third book, AT NIGHT WE WALK IN CIRCLES, is an interesting paragraph from thesis 30 of Guy Debord's THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE and it reads as follows:

"The spectacle's externality with respect to the acting subject is demonstrated by the fact that the individual's own gestures are no longer his own, but rather those of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator feels at home nowhere, for the spectacle is everywhere."

I read that paragraph several times before I started this novel but I didn't fully grasp its meaning or absorb its relevance until after I finished the book.

The novel is being marketed as "a breathtaking, suspenseful story" and even though I found it well paced and engaging, I would say the taste of irony is much more predominant than that of suspense.

The novel is set in an unnamed country in the Andes sometime after "the war" and a theatrical event entitled "The Idiot President," performed by a "guerrilla" theater troupe known as Diciembre, is at its core.

The story takes off with a touring revival of the legendary play to the country's provinces, starring a young aspiring actor named Nelson, the play's author Henry Nunez, (Nelson's idol and one of the original Diciembre players once imprisoned as a terrorist), and another original member of Diciembre, now a theater owner, named Petalarga.

The plot thickens and turns complicated as art imitates life and fate conflicts with identity when Nelson makes a spontaneous acting decision that results in shatteringly ironic consequences.

"Nelson was well liked, but hard to know.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By PencilStubs on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Note: I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My first impression is that At Night We Walk in Circles is the type of multilayered book that an English major could painstakingly dissect and then gleefully churn out pages and pages exploring literary device use and the underlying purpose and meaning of every story element. I will admit that I am a former English major, but, currently in the midst of writing research papers for grad school, I don't have the energy to be writing the lengthy literary analysis this book deserves and will be basing this review/rating on the novel's entertainment value.

The novel is about the life of Nelson, an aspiring actor and playwright, who lands a role in a touring theater troupe lead by his role model. Not an exciting premise by itself, but there were a few things that kept me reading: The narrator is unknown (until the last quarter of the novel), and pieced together the events that lead to Nelson's fate through interviews with his friends and family and from his abandoned journals. I was motivated to keep reading to find out who the narrator was and what had inspired them to investigate and retell Nelson's story. By the end, something significant and worthy of story-telling does indeed happen to Nelson, and, throughout the novel, the narrator drops hints that this something was not a good thing, maintaining a sense of apprehension that kept me turning the pages. The touring theater plotline takes an unexpected and unfortunate turn, which sets in motion the events that lead to Nelson's ironic and surreal downfall.

Overall, Nelson and the supporting characters were well fleshed out and interesting to follow.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on October 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As was his first novel, Lost City Radio (2007), Daniel Alarcón's new novel is set in what again seems to be Péru (with a capital on the coast and recent history of a long Maoist rebellion and violent counterinsurgency inland/upland). It begins in the coastal capital city (rather like the author's birthplace, Lima) in which Nelson, recently fledged from drama school, is selected to play the part of the servant in a three-man play "The Idiot President," which got its author, Henry Nuñez (who played and will play again the titular arrogant president), imprisoned (in what seems to be the Lurigancho prison) on suspicions of being a subversive. Another veteran from the earlier run during times of counterinsurgency Patalarga owns a ramshackle theater and is eager to go on the road to the highland (Andean) hinterlands in a revival of the Diciembre troupe.

A bit more than the first half of the novel chronicles the relationship of the three players and their performances before rural audiences, most of whom have no idea what a theater or a play is.

Early on, the reader learns that Nelson had an intense love relationship in prison with someone named Rogelio, and when in the vicinity of Rogelio's native village, Henry veers there and visits Rogelio's family. Surprises start cascading there and I don't want to be guilty of plot-spoilers, but can say that role engulfment (the collapse of the role distance which has already not been understand by audience members along the way) ensues in a quite Pirandellian situation.
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