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A Storm Hits Valparaiso Paperback – January 27, 2012
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About the Author
David is Irish and lives in Dublin, where it rains every day and conversation is a sport. He is the author of the historical adventures Liberty Boy, Mercenary & A Storm Hits Valparaiso, and has helped thousands of authors to self-publish their work via his workshops, blog, and two popular writers' books: Let's Get Digital & Let's Get Visible. He has been featured in the Telegraph, the Irish Times, the Guardian, the Irish Examiner, the Sunday Times, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Forbes, Mashable, New York Observer, Newsweek Polska, il Giornale, The Star Malaysia, and, most pleasingly, the Journal for Maritime Research. He also likes Wings and isn't afraid to say so. Visit DavidGaughran.com to sign up to his mailing list.
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They all get caught up in the decisions of the decaying Spanish Empire and those of their own politicians. The novel's themes, of freedom from Spain, and slavery, love, and survival, play across Argentina, Chile, Peru, and London. Geographically, it's massive. The character population is also huge.
And that's why I liked it, rather than loved it. A book like this needs to reach War and Peace lengths to give the characters any kind of depth. Each chapter moves from one character to another, which is fine, but it makes each feel like a short story, and with much of the dialogue coming across as stiff, especially San Martin's. A couple of lowly characters, who have their own story strands, barely develop before they die on the battlefield.
If not given the length to breathe, then maybe the book could have concentrated on a few key characters. I would have liked to see San Martin as a background character, with the focus aimed at brothers Diego and Jorge, and Catalina. The book starts with Catalina in her father's tavern, shooting verbal fire at Spanish sailors who are trying it on with her. It sets the scene beautifully. If it could have centred around her and the brothers, their passions representing the larger struggle between the colonies and Spain, then this would have been truly epic. In the end, too many characters dilute its impact, all not given enough room to expand their lungs, making it read for much of the time like a history book rather than a novel.
A good read, then, with magnificent historical research, but it could have been so much better.
I kept being distracted by realising that the words the author put into the mouths of the characters were all just, of necessity, contrived and that spoiled the story.
The book begins with a disparate range of many characters and you just hope that they all come together eventually, but it takes an unnecessarily long time to actually happen. In fact, several of the characters could be discarded completely and the book would benefit.
That said - I admire the obvious effort that went into this book and the author is to be congratulated - it just needed some more brutal pruning.
When this reviewer began reading this book, she had little knowledge of the history of South America and, consequently, she had some difficulty of knowing in which country the action was occurring. It was a well written historical novel based on much truth of both famous men and battles. At the end of the book, the author gave his references for both people and events. Although I couldn't always be sure of what country the story took place in, it didn't detract from the actions of his famous characters. He added a little romantic interest by introducing a young woman, Catalina, who worked in her father's bar until Spanish troops entered Valparaiso and he sent her away. She appeared off and on throughout the story because two young cousins, raised together as brothers and important acts in the story, were in love with her.
This reviewer didn't know that the Spanish had such a foothold in South American countries, although they were harsh in most countries they conquered. Down there they were harsh with the citizens of the countries they had to reconquer, and especially the indigenous Indians whom they worked as slave labor in their silver mines and black slaves that had been shipped in to work the farms. But at the time this story took place, there were many other ethnic groups in South America who had an interest and were determined to drive the Spanish out, which took several years of fighting, And this is the substance of this novel, but the author described the main actors and the countries succinctly so that the reader could picture the scenes, even though never having seen them. For those readers who enjoy history, and especially if the tediousness of straight history is discouraging, then this is a good book to read. I agree with one of the other reviewers that the title is misleading and underplays the depth of the story, and perhaps it could have been longer and more detailed, but I can recommend as it now stands.