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A Storm Hits Valparaiso Kindle Edition
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Did cover events and times in history with which I wasn't that familiar so educational for me. It was well written and a good read.
Gaughran shows a thorough attention to both historical and geographical detail, and the storyteller's knack for giving it to us straight when need be, but fudging things here and there where it suits the story the best, as all historical fiction inevitably does at some point. While some of the characters are obviously more intriguing than others, each chapter is short, so even if you're finding yourself not immensely interested in what's happening at that moment, you're quick to move on to something else.
While the book is overall solidly written and the story well-told, there are of course some minor quibbles. There are some unfortunate typos and grammatical mistakes that should have been picked up prior to publication. Also, while the real historical characters feel very genuine and flushed out, some of the fictional characters are unfortunately slightly one-dimensional - the fiery Latina prostitute, the adventurous young farmhand, etc. However, I will say that what Gaughran does with these characters throughout the book - the way they interact with each other - makes up for their slight lack of well-roundedness.
That being said, I think there was maybe one or two main characters too many. One in particular, a runaway slave who joins up with the army, seems there simply to `represent a demographic,' as his story really doesn't affect the overall narrative at all. Also, I almost wish the book was much longer; while it makes for a cracking read at its current length, I would not at all have minded if the book was twice as long, and delved into much more of the political and military details. There were some minor characters who suddenly became very important for short bits here and there, then disappear; I would have liked to have learned more of them. As you can see, this is a criticism in favour of the author - I was made to want more that wasn't there.
One final thing, though - this could be one of the most ill-suited titles I've ever come across. It's a very, very poor choice, as it really has hardly anything to do with the book, and actually detracts from the novel's epic scale. Based on the title I was expecting something like Seven Samurai, but instead it's more like War and Peace. But naught to be done now, I suppose.
It's still a recommended read.
Now there were a couple of things that did bother me. I wish that the character Zé had served a better purpose. It was jarring to invest interest into him only to have his story end the way that it did. Also the story kind of goes into cruise control towards the end as whole years are glossed over to get to the finish line.
All in all, the book was a pleasant companion and it was well worth my time. I had read a biography about Simon Bolivar before, and found this to be a helpful view of the other half of South America's liberation. If you read this, I recommend following it up with a Bolivar story.
I loved the story...learning about the history and the characters that shaped it, and the way that you get to 'visit' these places on the other side of the globe that we should all be fortunate enough to visit in real life. But if you can't, I hope that you would at least want to know something about what it feels like, or felt like to live there and I think this book can give you a measure of that. And dammit, it's good.