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Lima Nights Hardcover – December 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in Peru's capital city, this spare, unsentimental novel examines the far-reaching and life-changing consequences of sexual obsession. Carlos Bluhm, a married father of two, is enjoying an outing at a sleazy club in 1986 when he meets 15-year-old Juana Maria Fernandez, a dancer working two jobs and living in the slums. Maria is the polar opposite of Carlos's Germanic wife, Sophie, and he is immediately captivated by her. After Carlos takes Maria away for an illicit vacation, Sophie discovers her husband's affair and moves her sons, her mother-in-law and all of the house's possessions while Bluhm is on vacation with his mistress, leaving Bluhm to come home to an empty house. The second half of the book flashes forward 20 years, revealing Carlos and Maria uneasily living together and beginning to drift apart. Trying to preserve the lifestyle she's come to depend upon, Maria makes desperate attempts to keep Carlos under her spell. While the story ends with a whimper, the finely tuned human drama and subversion of the happily-ever-after drive home the setup's inherent sadness. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In some respects, Lima Nightsis an age-old story about the usual doomed love affair. In others, the tale is not so typical: as Arana delves deep inside her characters to explore Peru's class, social, and generational tensions, an unpredictable story unfolds. While critics disagreed about the relative success of the first half of the novel (which takes place in 1986) versus the second (the present-day story), they concurred that Arana deftly limns the relationship between Carlos and Maria and the changes and power struggles that emerge over time. A couple of critics faulted the characterizations and language ("forced and wooden," said the Rocky Mountain News), but overall, Lima Nightsis a beautiful, mournful novel about the deceptions of love.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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Bluhm's family originated in Germany. Maria's originated at the mouth of the Amazon. And this is the love story of the older man and a teenage girl who works two jobs, one as a dancer in a little bar. So the prostitute part is there but only tangentially.
Bluhm is married and lives in the house his grandfather purchased when he immigrated to Peru. And he has two sons who are essentially the age of Maria. I will not spoil the plot by saying more about what happens although the reader will already have predicated that. But this is a story told by a very skilled novelist, one in which the reader is allowed to see multiples of points of view. It is also the story of racism, of white men--and Bluhm has three buddies his age who are also womanizers--who use women and then discard them. And it is rich in irony.
One scene in particular stands out for me: Maria's dollhouse that Bluhm made for her. The house Bluhm owns becomes the metaphor that carries the ironic plot. I won't say any more than that.
The reader is exposed to so much about the Peruvian culture where poverty is rampant, where the Incas are less-thans when in fact they are so much more than the white people who have exploited so much of the Western Hemisphere.
In fact, this particular story is compelling and the telling of it is done masterfully - I couldn't put the book down. In spare prose, the author weaves a powerful story. The story is also enhanced by its romantic setting in politically unstable Peru in the 1980s, and its associated themes of racial and class conflict.
What makes this book extraordinary, however, is the author's wisdom - particularly the insights her characters impart on the mysterious workings of the human heart. The reader is left with a better understanding of love, and a greater compassion for those who make inexplicable and seemingly poor decisions because of love.
A (white) middle-aged family man, not above the occasional one night stand, suddenly falls for a 15, soon to be 16, year old (indian) girl he meets at a nightclub. He just happens to be the first customer into whose pocket she slips her name and phone number. After a few encounters he hatches a poorly considered plan to turn a family vacation at the beach into a seaside rendezvous with her. His wife figures it out, and has moved his family, including his mother, even including most of the furniture, out of his house before he returns. Things seem to happen fast in Peru.
Or, maybe not. Twenty plus years then pass (quickly, in page count) with the man and younger woman living together in his house. They don't seem to learn much about each other in that time. She wants to get married, and there seems to be no real impediment beyond the social opposition of a white-indian union. But from whom? His drinking buddies? His estranged family? His coworkers at menial jobs?
The "last act" is an awkward blend of Greek tragedy and slapstick comedy. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding, just missed opportunity after just missed opportunity. Within limits, it can work. Shakespeare, for example, pulled it off on a smaller scale in "Romeo and Juliet". But Arana's plot asks too much. (And, smooth as she is, she's no Shakespeare.)
I made it through the book because the prose is so well turned. But, when I was done, I could only shake my head about the story.
cultural divide of the peruvian metropolis.Her characters are believable and her
humor knowledgeable.I couldn't put the book down for long!!!
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