Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tarzan's Tonsillitis, by Alfredo Bryce Echenique

I borrowed this book from my local library because I thought the title was interesting.

I opened the cover and I read the flap with the summary:

"From the internationally acclaimed Peruvian writer--winner of the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world--a tragi-comic story of improbable, inevitable love."

Oooh, I thought, Cervantes prize! This has to be good. I read on.

"At the center: a couple in love, in exile together and apart. He is Juan Manuel Carpio, a second-generation Peruvian of Native American origins, a middle-class singer-composer. She is Fernanda Maria de la Trinidad del Monte Montes, a polyglot and cultured Salvadoran. Through the mostly epistolary narrative set in 1960s Paris, revolutionary El Salvador, Chile, 1980s California, and London, we follow the thirty-year arc of their relationship."

I'm a big fan of epistolary novels; Steve Kruger wrote two of my favorites, Last Days of Summer and Almost Like Being in Love. Click on the titles to read my reviews.

I decided to continue reading the summary:

"At once cheerful, hopeful, and informed by a serene lack of sentimentality, the narrative--rich with the delights of paradox and hyperbole--sees the couple through disastrous and traumatic marriages to other people; the ups and downs of their respective careers; the inexorable effects of politics on their personal lives; their shifting passions and gradual realization that the truest bond between lovers is a tender, abiding, and respectful friendship."

I wish I could say that I loved this book. I liked it, but didn't love it. In fact, I was quite disappointed with it. This, quite simply, is the tale of two lovers who are meant to be together, but various circumstances keep them apart.

I didn't like the main characters. Juan Manuel longs to be with Fernanda, but is too much of a wimp to take a stand with the men in her life, or with Fernanda at all, and say, "We're meant to be together! Let's do something about it NOW!" And Fernanda is portrayed throughout the novel as a wuss as well; she wants to be strong, but she doesn't know how.


I guess the main reason why I didn't like this book was the lack of a happy ending. I won't spoil it for you all, but I guess it was somewhat realistic, as many couples just aren't meant to be together. I myself have been the recipient of many disappointing romances; I have a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks in Unrequited Love.

Finally, the relationship between Juan Manuel and Fernanda was confusing to decipher: Are they friends? Are they lovers? The friendship is clear, but the author does not really indicate the extent of their romance; there was very little passion between the lovers each time they were actually together, save for a lot of hugging and kissing (and very little besides that; there's little talk of sex in this novel).

Sooo...back to the library it goes. I was disappointed, for based on the summary, this book promised a lot more than it delivered.

This was the first book I read in my 2009 Library Challenge, as well as the latest on my list for my 100+ Library Challenge. Click on the buttons in the sidebar for all of the latest updates!

1 comment:

Jenners said...

I for one am always glad for an honest review so thank you. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who picks books based on the title!