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Elena McMahon is a reporter for the Washington Post and the unlikely inheritor of her father's complex and secretive life as an arms dealer for the U.S. Government in Central America. The year is 1984, and as she flies to an unnamed island off the coast of Costa Rica, she is oblivious to the spies, American military personnel, and the consequences of her father's errors that await her. She's also unprepared for the advances of Treat Morrison, an American diplomat whose service under six administrations has made him a "crisis junkie." Treat narrates this story, offering a unique perspective on Elena, a woman who abandons one life for another. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Brilliantly written and flawlessly structured, Didion's first work of fiction since 1984's Democracy employs her trademark barbed-wire prose to tell a highly elliptical tale of political intrigue. Elena McMahon, a middle-aged woman of substantial wealth, is divorced and covering the 1984 presidential campaign for the Washington Post when she abruptly walks off her beat and goes to Florida to visit her ailing father. Soon, she has passively allowed herself to drift into a shady arms deal running between Florida and Central America, an enterprise that her father had set up but is physically incapable of seeing through. Didion takes risks in her choice of a nameless narrator, a writer who has only a peripheral knowledge of the people and events around which the story revolves. Indeed, the narrator is piecing together that story considerably after the fact. As a result, the characters are virtually ciphers: the narrator explicitly refuses to provide traditional motivation for their actions. The book is compulsively readable, however, an intellectual thriller that recalls Graham Greene?except that whereas Greene was concerned with the spirituality of desolation, Didion's characters operate in a spiritual void. The cold, detached tone is more than compensated for by the sharpness of Didion's prose and the artful suspense of her plot. This is a major work by one of the shrewdest observers of America's political and cultural life. 100,000 first printing; Random House Audio book.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Context of time and location is all over the place. Boring as well. Some good knowledge of and interest in WW2 era is helpful. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Katiemylove
This book is a rarity-- experimental writing that isn't boring. That's because Didion isn't playing with words as with most experimental writing, but working them to show us "the... Read morePublished on July 3, 2013 by A Customer
If you have read a number of Joan Didion novels, particularly starting in the 1980s, she turns her attention progressively on our neighbors in to the south, and American meddling... Read morePublished on February 4, 2013 by Eric Maroney
This is the first Joan Didion book I've read; my impression is that she is a master stylist.
This is the story of Elena Kagan, reporter, wife of a powerful oilman,... Read more
Didion is a masterful writer, but after reading this one I'm beginning to agree with another reviewer who felt she does better with nonfiction. Read morePublished on September 7, 2010 by Poogy
In my view, Didion is as close to perfect as any living writer, and this book represents the top of her form. It is a quiet book, its excellence pervasive but never showy. Read morePublished on March 31, 2010 by Phineas Fogg
This is a great read. I wasn't sure if I was interested in the subject (not a big fan of conspiracy theories or the mid-80's), but I wanted to read a Joan Didion novel and this is... Read morePublished on April 26, 2009 by Sean's Mom
I have read several of Didion's non-fiction essay collections and this was the second of the writer's novels for me, after "Play It As It Lays. Read morePublished on January 26, 2007 by C. E. Stevens
Perhaps Didion has done as much as she can with her distinctive prose style, maybe she has gotten a little bored with it, and should have attempted something different. Read morePublished on December 4, 2006 by algo41