Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Blue Line: A Novel Hardcover – January 26, 2016
|New from||Used from|
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Praise for The Blue Line
"Betancourt, the victim of a well-known, six-year-long political kidnapping in Colombia, can certainly be taken seriously as a chronicler of South American brutality and repression, and she does not turn away from the ugly truth in her fiction debut…the novel generally propels the reader along with its conviction and moral force."—Library Journal
"Betancourt writes unflinchingly . . . [She] tells an anguished story of passion, sacrifice, imprisonment, torture, and exile with often gruesome detail, historical accuracy, and rising suspense.. . .Betancourt orchestrates an intimate conflict and shocking denouement that fuse the personal and the political in a twenty-first-century variation on Greek tragedy."—Booklist
"The perfect summer read, à la Isabel Allende."—Libération
"A wonderful first novel . . . It’s got what it takes to become this summer’s bestseller."—RTL
"[Ingrid Betancourt] has written her first adventure novel and it’s a great success . . . The writing is vivid and strong."—Le Figaro Magazine
"Striking the perfect balance, The Blue Line is serious and entertaining at once . . . Thoughtfully constructed between the past and present . . . [it] gets to the heart of the matter: how hard it can be to love, but also the horror of not loving and the pain of no longer loving. It is as dense and beautiful as a fall in slow-motion . . ."—Le Point
"An intense, moving, and gripping book."—Version Fémina
"An adventure novel reminiscent of Isabel Allende or Oriana Fallaci’s A Man. The torture scenes are Dantean. The novel’s structure allows Ingrid to come back to many of the themes that made Even Silence Has an End so powerful. They reappear in the hearts of new characters, yet are no less believable. "-- Paris Match
"A successful and enthralling first novel."—Europe 1
"In The Blue Line, Betancourt tells a love story – that of Julia and Theo – which also underscores the horror of political persecution and torture during the Argentinian dictatorship. She does so with great narrative strength and a touch of magical realism."—El País
"A strong, powerful novel."—Elle
"Bewitching."—Point de Vue
Praise for Ingrid Betancourt's Even Silence Has An End:
"[Even Silence Has An End] is gripping not just for its heart-wrenching portrayal of captivity, but also because of the sharp and useful psychological insights it offers"--The New York Times
"Remarkable."--The Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Born on December 25, 1961, in Bogotá, Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt was a politician and presidential candidate celebrated for her determination to combat widespread corruption. In 2002 she was taken hostage by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization, and held for more than six and a half years in the Colombian jungle. She was rescued in 2008. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Even Silence Has an End.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The novel is told in two alternating time periods, rather cutely indicated by subtitles such as "Austral Winter, 1976" and "Boreal Autumn, 2006." The earlier period is set in Buenos Aires and deals with the childhood of Julia, the protagonist, and especially her later teens when she is in love with a student named Theo, the leader of a revolutionary cell in the university. By 2006, Julia and Theo are married with a grown son, living a comfortable middle-class life in Connecticut. Anyone who knows anything about the first period realizes that Julia and Theo will become victims of the "dirty war" and be subject to abduction, torture, and constant threat of death. We will see Julia become involved with a number of real-life figures and events, such as the "liberation theology" priest Father Carlos Mugica and the Ezieza Massacre. And yes, there will be imprisonment, degradation, and torture. Betancourt describes all this through Julia's eyes, but not from inside her soul. At least in the uninspired translation by Lakshmi Ramakrishnan Iyer and Rebekah Wilson (acknowledged only in the smallest of small print), she has a dry style of short declarative sentences that utterly failed to stir my imagination or frankly my sympathy. I will illustrate the short-breathed style, however, from a less charged passage: what she would have us believe is an ordinary domestic dialogue but which merely shows the clumsy way in which Betancourt handles exposition (and still doesn't make the political situation much clearer, even so):
-- Theo paused, then went on: "Closer to home, take the death of Juan Garcia Elorria. It was apparently a car accident. But a lot of people wanted to silence him. He was the editor of 'Christianity and Revolution.' Either way, the magazine didn't survive his death."
The "dirty war" was, at one time, an important subject to bring to the fore. But in addition to the histories and memoirs, there have now been a number of novels written about it. What may make Betancourt's different is her use of magic realism to offset the hard facts, and including scenes set thirty years later. But other novels, such as PERLA by Carolina De Robertis, have used magical devices, and more effectively than Betancourt. She gives Julia an inherited "gift" that enables her to foresee terrible events in a trance, and so be better equipped to cope with them. I think it is supposed to prolong the dread of approaching terror, but the visions are too detailed to work that way. Instead it turned the book into a mere sequence: "Sometime I'm going to be tortured… Now I'm being tortured… Now I'm trying to recover." And while US sections would seem to be an interesting way to study the effects of delayed PTSD, there is something so predictable in the suburban story of adultery in a tired marriage to be a worthy counterpoint to the genuine anguish suffered by countless young men and women a great deal more real than Betancourt's Julia.
Franco-Colombian politician and former political prisoner Íngrid Betancourt, who herself draws opinions as divided as Perón, has written several nonfiction volumes about her life, Colombia’s political struggles, and her captivity. This is her first novel. Reading throughout, I couldn’t help recalling Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, another lone novel from a political activist. They address similar themes of nationalism, identity, and the collision between past and present.
Like countless mid-20th-Century country dwellers, Julia’s family emigrated to Buenos Aires seeking work. Living amid the city’s bustling ethnic Italians, teenaged Julia meets Theo, a social chameleon with electric political views. Theo leads Julia into the Montoneros, a radical militia that somehow simultaneously lionizes Marx and Perón. Think “Weather Underground.” But when circumstances return Perón from political exile, the militia that restored him becomes his target.
Betancourt’s narrative, like Roy’s, shifts time, sometimes abruptly. One chapter ends in 1973, the next commences in 2006. Here Julia and Theo, now nearly thirty years married and living in Connecticut, have fallen into comfortable Yanqui boredom. Julia’s visions warn her someone, somewhere, will soon commit irreparable infidelity, or worse, but she cannot know who. Suddenly motivated, she races to rescue her marriage from the scourge of Wonderbread American life.
Like Arundhati Roy, Íngrid Betancourt’s storytelling trends very slow-moving and cerebral. Characters are generally manifestations of themes, and she doesn’t craft plot turns so much as metaphorical reversals. Readers accustomed to active momentum and character-driven narrative may find Betancourt’s highly constructed approach daunting. It certainly requires willpower to pursue its slow, meandering development. Betancourt doesn’t write for casual airport or bedtime reading.
But unlike Roy, who apprenticed in Bollywood before publishing her novel, Betancourt has visible authorial fingerprints across her writing. Her symbolism is often unsubtle and high-handed, while her story runs more on social conscience than character or action. Long passages get driven by political debate, which, since principal characters are university students and a priest, gets understandably intellectual. Imagine entire chapters where the characters remain seated. This book demands patience.
Understanding this novel does require some willingness to step outside ourselves. Not only must we accommodate ourselves to the South American setting (by Norteamericano standards, Julia and Theo’s early courtship appears age-inappropriate; the politics seem often strange and contradictory), but the Magic Realist style takes some getting used to. When something so extraordinary as clairvoyance gets treated as banal, rationalist Western reading habits simply no longer apply.
However, readers willing to make the investment Betancourt demands will find a smart, humane portrait of two forces shaping a generation of South Americans. (Despite the Peronist setting, Betancourt is clearly writing about herself and Colombia.) As Cold War-era juntas surrender to middle-class stability, as a generation raised seeking the next rebellious cause descends into making a living, we realize that oppression doesn’t require guns to rob life of meaning.
Where praise will accrue to this novel, and it probably will, it’ll probably come from audiences who read for theme. Future generations may encounter this novel in graduate school. In a reading environment clogged by action thrillers and character dramas, Betancourt briefly acknowledges both, but doesn’t linger, courting audiences who’d rather feel engaged than hypnotized by books. It’s easy to think about, but hard to get lost in, this novel.
I’ve drawn several parallels between Betancourt and Arundhati Roy here, so let’s clarify that these parallels are very imprecise. First, The God of Small Things is undoubtedly the superior novel; Betancourt seems more comfortable with expository speech than storytelling. But also, Betancourt’s vision is far less bleak than Roy’s, suggesting people’s ability to triumph over seemingly overwhelming circumstances. (Also, despite what I’ve said, Roy did eventually publish a second novel.)
One reads this story not to journey with the characters, since Wikipedia shows where they’re ultimately headed. Rather, we journey with the peoples symbolized by these individual characters, the working masses of Buenos Aires, “los desaparecidos,” and immigrants trapped in American malaise. I certainly wouldn’t mistake this book for fun. But behind its authorial hiccups, it’s an interesting snapshot of two violently conflicted times and places.
Most recent customer reviews
The story follows Julia and the discovery and development of her gift of prognostication that is...One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)Read more
There are many aspects of this novel that I appreciated. The non-linear presentation of events keeps the reader engaged in following several...Perla (Vintage Contemporaries) Overall, I'm glad that I read this novel and I think that it's a good novel, but nothing really exceptional.Read more