OK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freeOK, now that this is done I am happy I read it. I knew practically nothing about Simón Bolivar (1783-1830). Who's he???? He is the Venezuelan who freed South America from Spanish rule! The battle for independence began in Venezuela in 1810, spread to Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Final independence wasn't achieved until 14 years later. (Chile and Argentina were freed from Spanish rule by others, and that is not covered in this book.)
The book follows the "liberator" from birth to death. He had such hopes, such high ideals - freedom and equality of all races. The tyranny of Spain was thrown off but bringing peace to a land with such a mix of religion and race lead in fact to chaos and civil war. How does it end for Bolivar himself? It ends in poverty, illness and exile. Both Bolivar's achievements and faults are presented. The research is thorough. His childhood, education and military campaigns are followed step by step by step. Civil wars, betrayals, friendships and mistresses. Wait till you meet his lover Manuela Sáenz! She is something else. It is all here. His death is covered too. I would say the reader is if anything given too much rather than too little.
The epilog is excessively long-winded.
I had trouble with the audiobook narration by David Crommett. He spoke the Spanish names of people and cities and rivers and areas so darn quickly that I could not even jot them down! There are lots of names! A person who is acquainted with Spanish will love it, but I had difficulty. So I learned what I could learn. If you cannot write down the name of a town how do you find it in an atlas or on internet? Also, he emphasized the text's lines, which is not the way I like audiobooks read. Suspense, fear and glory are magnified. I kept thinking, "Please, just calm down!"
I think if you know Spanish and if you are already acquainted with Bolivar and South American history, you will not find this as difficult a read as I did. It is a good book, but the more you know before starting it the more you will appreciate it. Heck, you have to start somewhere.
50% completed: Well, I am chugging through this thing. There have been moments I wanted to dump it. What makes it so very hard is that the names and places are pronounced very quickly with a Spanish accent. There are lots of names and places that I do not recognize. Given the correct but fast narration by one fluent in Spanish, I am having trouble. I am learning what I can. AND the narrator sort of sings the text, which drives me nuts, particularly when describing war atrocities. Phew, I really do not enjoy reading about such. Gruesome details, but this is what happened. ...more
If you want to understand the history of Colombia and the birth of Panama, this book is perhaps not the place to start. The multitude of generals andIf you want to understand the history of Colombia and the birth of Panama, this book is perhaps not the place to start. The multitude of generals and numerous wars can be confusing. The speed with which names and events are thrown at you is daunting. Previous knowledge helps. Check out David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, which covers both how the Panama Canal came into existences and the split between Panama and Colombia. It doesn't cover Colombia's fight for independence from Spain, as Vásquez's does, and it stops in 1914 when the canal was completed. Vásquez's continues only to 1904. I have not read McCullough's book myself, but have discussed it with my husband who read it, it being a paper book I could no longer read. Another book that begins with a section about travel across the isthmus before the canal was built is Fanny Stevenson: A Romance of Destiny. This was very good. The railroad monopoly and the diseases are all there. Each book you read imparts a little more and makes it easier to continue. You have to start somewhere, so if you don't demand complete understanding, OK, give this a try. There is always Wiki..... The facts in Vasquez's book are reliable.
Then there is the fictional aspect of the book, which is easily separated from the historical facts. Supposedly, Joseph Conrad got his story for Nostromo from the central character, José, in Vasquez's book. This is not true. The facts about Joseph Conrad are historically accurate. So, you do indeed get a lot of interesting historical details, both Colombian history and a bit of Joseph Conrad's life. However the story feels sidetracked when it covers Conrad's travel in the Congo. Also some of José decisions just didn't make sense to me. (view spoiler)[ He tells us why he leaves his daughter behind in Panama, but this just didn't make sense to me. More importantly it seems terribly naive of José to tell his whole life story to an author….and then get mad when he uses it in his own way! (hide spoiler)]
I liked the attitude, the tone José uses as he tells us HIS version of the story, what Conrad got wrong and/or cut out! It felt like this is how someone who had lived through the events would feel. There is humor, even if he never shies from the grizzly truths of war. A good book.
I would not recommend the audiobook if you are reading this for its historical content. There is nothing wrong with the narration, by Armando Duran, but if you are not familiar with Spanish it is even harder to keep track of all the names. ...more
Interesting and engaging. Here the theme is the violence and fear that permeated all Colombian life in the 80s and 90s when the Colombian drug lord PaInteresting and engaging. Here the theme is the violence and fear that permeated all Colombian life in the 80s and 90s when the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar held sway. Who wasn't affected? How did this play out in the lives of Colombians, children and adults?
Fear. This is a book about fear. It is about secrets. What is it like to discover your father is not who you thought he was? It is about how all families were caught up in the violence of those times. Arguments between husband and wife are pitch-perfect. It is about how the life of the country seeps into the lives of two families and irrevocably changes them.
Good writing that grabs you. You never feel that the text is translated.
It is interesting to see the role the Peace Corps plays in the events. I am wondering to what extent this is true and I wish there had been an author's note to clarify the veracity of the events.
Mike Vendetti does the narration of the audiobook. Yeah, it was good....more