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The Sound of Things Falling

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  14,590 ratings  ·  1,520 reviews
Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict z
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Riverhead Books (first published May 2011)
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Caroline Love I don't think the book implies the Peace corps helped, rather that individuals who had been Peace Corps volunteers were involved, and this would be ve…moreI don't think the book implies the Peace corps helped, rather that individuals who had been Peace Corps volunteers were involved, and this would be very difficult to disprove. One has to remember that mainly rubbish criminals get caught and there are a lot of highly skilled criminals that never get a criminal record. I'm sure the great majority of Peace Corps volunteers did good things, but there are always some who go into 'good' roles for bad reasons (for example paedophiles who volunteer to work with kids) or get lured into bad behaviour because of the temptations they are faced with.(less)
Regina As far as I understand we do not get an exact answer, but his daughter tells that he had to pay much money for the copy of the black box and he borrow…moreAs far as I understand we do not get an exact answer, but his daughter tells that he had to pay much money for the copy of the black box and he borrowed the money from a working collegue. And he told this collegue that he need not worry about the repayment, he had done some kind of work and would soon get much money for this – so we can suppose that this “work” was nothing legal, most probably something connected with drug smuggling, and this was what he was killed for. (less)

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Richard Derus
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.

Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an e
Glenn Russell

If The Sound of Things Falling, Juan Gabriel Vásquez's novel filled with sadness and beauty, were ever made into a film, Edward Elgar's Elegy for String Orchestra would make the perfect theme music.

The Colombian author told an interviewer he was stuck writing his story with allusions to Pablo Escobar and the drug world but then he read a newspaper article about an escaped hippopotamus from the zoo built by the cocaine king during the mid-1980s when Don Pablo enjoyed phenomenal wealth and power.
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

4.5 stars. Ha, damn. Who knew it'd take such a quiet and introspective novel to break my heart.

I'm sorry because my fangirling probably won't help, but I found Juan Gabriel Vásquez's storytelling just wonderful. As often when I fall in love with a book - especially when none of my friends have read it, I've been feeling a little self-conscious and read a few reviews with low ratings. I... don't advise doing that, lol. In the end, I'm not able to acknowledge the flaws pointed there - too
Jim Fonseca
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
First my thanks to David from Calgary who recommended this book to me.

A story set in Bogota, Colombia. The narrator is a young man who was severely wounded when his companion was murdered in a motorcycle drive-by shooting. The main theme of the book is how the violence of Pablo Escobar’s drug wars impacted not only the narrator’s life but that of a whole generation in Colombia mostly during the 1980’s. The narrator is hospitalized for a long time and ends up with PTSD and agoraphobia that severe
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such profoundly sad book. A life stymied and stunted during the height of the drug wars in Bogotá. I will think about it for a long time to come.
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ambience of this melancholy novel often appeared in my dreams at night while I was reading this book. I am not sure how long-lasting the effect will be, but it has put me into a funk. This is a quiet novel depicting the solitary interior life of a ruined generation. There are frequent pleasures; I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Laverde family, urban life up in the mountains in Bogotá contrasted with the rural tropical areas, the beautiful geography of Colombia and inferring some of t ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
I'm pretty sure the title of this novel "The Sound of Things Falling," refers to the sound of the book falling on the floor every time you doze off while reading it. The protagonist, Antonio, was neither likable, nor lovable, nor interesting in any way, and the same goes for Maya Fritts and her parents Elena and Laverde who were all flat characters. I looked forward to reading this book after putting my name on a long waiting list at the public library for it, as I love several Latin American au ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"There is a sound that I cannot or have never been able to identify: a sound that's not human or is more than human, the sound of lives being extinguished...the sound of things falling from on high...that is forever suspended in my memory, hanging in it like a towel on a hook."

In 1995, when Bogotonian Antonio Yammara was 26 and a few years out of law school, he met two significant people who would transform him, and in some ways, one would destroy him. A few years later, he met someone else that
After reading an invigorating review by Glenn of the English version of this book I decided to reread this book. Why? I remembered many things that he noted in his review but I was curious. This was the very first book that I read in Spanish and I wanted to know how well I read it, as well as how my initial review stood up.

I was very surprised. Yes of course this is a book about the drug violence of Colombia in the later 20th century and it deals with challenging issues such as terrorism and cri
A history of Colombia in plane crashes

Please don't try to nail me down on this one, because I read it in a complete fug, brought on by a combination of over-indulgence and lack of sleep (the changeover to Summer Time). But as a book to read under such circumstances, it was perfect. Fast-paced, intriguing, frequent changes of scene to prevent boredom, but not so many as to cause confusion, and all combined with a feeling that you were actually learning something, something really quite worthwhile
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My, oh my – what an incredible novel. This is the kind of novel that made me brush everything aside and read voraciously, devouring every single word and dreading arriving at the end. Yes, it’s that good!

Set in Bogota, Colombia, our narrator, Antonio, becomes twinned to an enigmatic and shadowy ex-pilot named Ricardo Laverde, whom he meets in a Bogota billiard hall. Ricardo has been imprisoned for many years for unknown reasons. (The refrain is: “He must have done something.”) Antonio is with Ri
Diane S ☔
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
There was just something about this book that was stylistically perfect. One of the most well constructed books I have ever read. The title is also perfect because things in this novel fall, airplanes fall, drug empires fall, an old zoo and estate that once belonged to Escobar falls into disrepair, a country falls victim to drugs and terror and lastly bodies that are shot fall soundlessly.

The prose is smooth, the setting and the realism that was Bogata in the 1970's. The history of a country de
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 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
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Against the backdrop of an explosive and defining period in history -- Pablo Escobar and the powerful Columbian drug cartels, the declaration of the War on Drugs, the growing cocaine epidemic following the Viet Nam war -- Vasquez has set an amazing story that is immediately gripping. With only his words, Vasquez is a sculptor, a painter, a master story teller; talking to our senses, filling our heads with journals and scrapbooks, maps taped to newspaper articles, the recollections of smugglers f ...more
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Annalisa by: Lucy
If this book were written by anyone but a Colombian, I would have begrudged the overused association of Colombia and drug trafficking, but because it was written by someone who lived there through those unstable years, he gets it right. It's not about the drug lords or the money or the corruption. It's about the people stuck in the middle, the vast majority of people who don't have anything to do with the war on drugs but find themselves as its unexpected consequence.

I can't say how well Vasque
Trigger warnings: Drive-by shootings, drug trafficking, death of a parent, plane crash, animal cruelty.

I picked this one up at work while stocktaking and was like "Uh, based on the blurb, this does not sound like something a high school library should have??" Colour me surprised to find that it's on the year 12 literature syllabus. It's not one that we teach, but we have a copy nonetheless.

So I read it. And I pretty much loved it. And I'm not entirely sure I can explain why. The writing is bea
Alice Lippart
The writing is absolutely stunning and I loved the setting, but found my interest for the characters waning the further into the story I got.
Jason Coleman
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
The early chapters include a rather chilling drive-by, the discovery of a black-box recording at a dead man's apartment, and the fate of a drug dealer's escaped pet hippo, and all of this is decent enough. Second half of the book includes a flashback of an airshow crash that strikes me as gratuitous semi-magic realism, and is followed by a piecing-together of the past by the main character and a mystery-man's beekeeper daughter, and is extremely weak. It reminded me, god help me, of the kids in ...more
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Superb prose and exquisite translation. Both 5 star quality.

Immensely sad. The first half of the book totally enthralled me. The last few sections made me wander into the realm of appreciation for the sublime words and emotions, but lost me nearly totally on my cognition for the entity novel as a whole. To me it just didn't hold together, except as a poignant example/core of the perceptions from living through a "troubled" era. Do I know all about that. If it is 3 or 4 or 5 decades ago-it just n
Dec 21, 2019 added it
Shelves: colombian
Antonio is collateral damage in a Colombian drive-by shooting. Meaning he gets shot too, but survives. He spends the rest of the novel trying to understand the life of the intended victim, the newly deceased Ricardo, and thereby understanding his own life, or Colombian history, or, oh, I don't know. It felt a little contrived to me.

The novel started off very promising, with an escaped hippopotamus being shot dead, its mate and baby hippo still at large. There is an obvious symbolic symmetry, tru
Viv JM
I'm not sure I've ever read a thriller as poignant and melancholy as this. I thought it was beautifully written/translated and found it very moving. It wasn't a conventionally fast-paced page turner of a thriller but still pulled the reader in. The portrayal of a country and a city haunted by its past will stay with me, I think. Highly recommended, and I will definitely be seeking out more work by this author. ...more
Bionic Jean
Jul 12, 2014 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bionic Jean by: Karen Purcell
The Sound of Things Falling is the third novel by Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Mario Vargas Llosa has called the author, "one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature." Vásquez's work is a reaction to magical realism, in particular that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He says,

"I want to forget this absurd rhetoric of Latin America as a magical or marvellous continent. In my novel there is a disproportionate reality, but that which is disproportionate in it is the violence and cruelty of
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Antonio Yammara teaches law and spends his spare time playing billiards. It is at the club where he plays that he first meets Ricardo Laverde. After inviting Laverde to a game the two become, not friends, more billiard associates, and they start playing together regularly. One day Laverde asks Yammara if he knows of anywhere that he can listen to a cassette tape that he has on him. Yammara knows of a place and takes him there. He waits while Laverde listens to the tape. and is surprised when Lav ...more
There is a kind of Latin American fiction that I seek out. They are stories that often have an atmosphere of melancholy, silences, and sometimes menace. The narrator, Antonio Yamarra, tells the story of meeting a man named Ricardo Laverde in a pool hall. He becomes curious about this man, who is obviously penniless, but regularly shows up to play. They develop a nodding friendship, which results in pulling Yamarra into Laverde's life. The story takes place in Bogota, Colombia in 1996, which is d ...more
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: latin-american
The Sound of Things Falling has a little bit of everything. A little modern history here, a little romance there etc, without getting too deep into anything. A good story well told but I couldn't help feeling there was something missing, a fact underlined by the size of the book. Such subjects need space to grow and mature and with roughly 300 pages, it's understood that the author didn't mean for it to become a legend, but a decent novel that's light and easy to read without being cheap. Despit ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
This is a horrendously overrated book. The narrator is extremely unlikable and uninteresting. The author unsuccessfully tried to cram three narratives into one. This resulted in the story being all over the place and having pacing issues. It isn't even well written: Vasquez needs to learn that good authors should show and not tell. This novel involved large amounts of blunt "telling." Good writing isn't even being sacrificed for deep content; there isn't much depth behind what Vasquez is trying ...more
Craig Fiebig
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
The Sound of Things Falling was heading for a two-star disappointment until the last handful of pages. But the recovery was incomplete. The story meandered, the prose was modest and the characters failed to develop attributes to make the reader either root for or despise them. Lots of loss, lots of life-questions, an above-average infestation of selfish and self-serving wandering through life. How much empathy can you have for someone who wants more and obtains it through drug-running? How much ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book based in Colombia, narrated by a young professor that tries to learn more about the life of a mysterious friend. In the meantime his life also moves on and the two life stories share similarities. It takes place in Colombia and I enjoyed so much reading about this country.
Very good translation (in Greek), with many side notes. Very well written book, I liked the atmosphere of Latin America. I will definitely read more books from Vasquez and from Latin and Central America.
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
The description of this book is a bit deceptive. It claims to be about Colombia during the reign of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. But the story really focuses on a man, Antonio, that grew up during this volatile time period during the 80's. As an adult, he meets a man in a pool hall. Antonio doesn't really know much about this man except he has just been released from prison. Antonio himself is on the cusp of change when he finds out he is going to be a father. What happens then is a gunshot rings ...more
Roger Brunyate
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Taking Flight

Let me introduce a marvelous Colombian novel that sucked me in and made me give up everything else to finish it. It has something of the structure of Gatsby, or perhaps the Ancient Mariner: a younger narrator, and an older man whose story he tells. Whose story he finds out, actually, piecing it together as we hear about it. The older man, Ricardo Laverde, is no millionaire, but a solitary individual worn down by life, whom the narrator met in a billiard club in Bogotá, and got to kn
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Estudió Derecho en su ciudad natal, en la Universidad del Rosario, y después de graduarse, partió a Francia, donde se instaló en París (1996-99). Allí, en La Sorbona se doctoró en Literatura Latinoamericana. Luego se mudó a un pequeño pueblo de la región de Ardenas, en Bélgica. Después de un año de vivir allí, Vásquez se instaló en Barcelona. Actualmente vive cerca a su ciudad natal en Colombia.


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