Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “War by Candlelight” as Want to Read:
War by Candlelight
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

War by Candlelight

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  825 ratings  ·  109 reviews
[Alarcóns] tales, set largely in the hardscrabble world of Lima, build with all the power of a Flannery OConnor story: a gentle enough start, an innocent setting, and before long the reader is adrift in a drama that defies the imaginationwith characters that live long after the book is closed.   Washington Post Book World

In this exquisite story collection, Daniel Alarcón
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 11th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about War by Candlelight, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about War by Candlelight

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  825 ratings  ·  109 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of War by Candlelight
Will Byrnes
In War by Candlelight, Daniel Alarcon shines a flickering light on a piece of modern Peruvian history. On, and its 1989, with two fighters in the jungle, one about to die; off, then on again, and it is 1966 where the father of one of those fighters is proudly sending his son off to university; off, then on, and it is 1983 and Fernando, the doomed fighter, is returning from a tour in the insurrection and pestering his wife to have another child. Flick off then on and it is 1973 when the fighters ...more
much as with lost city radio, the novel that followed this debut collection of short stories, i find something lacking in daniel alarcón's writing. the nine stories that make up war by candlelight are interesting enough, many with compelling plots even, yet his style of prose, perhaps best characterized as passionless, sterile, or overly restrained, detracts greatly from his storytelling. his writing nearly seems clinical, as if too many writing workshops have eroded his natural voice. that ...more
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
July/August 2009

All dead men dont fall from the sky. They dont all float down the Hudson and come to rest against smooth moss-covered rocks at the waters edge. Some of them are your fathers, your uncles. Some of them lose the battle slowly. Some die hating the world.
(A Strong Dead Man, p. 184)

A man proposes to his former girlfriend once a year on their daughters birthday. A reporter for the newspaper mourns his father as he writes a story on the citys clowns. Children go to war on enemy streets
Nov 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, 2007
I picked up War by Candlelight as part of my new project: To find contemporary (possibly American?) authors whose work wouldnt immediately turn me off with snarky postmodern pyrotechnics and faux quirkiness, with concepts and plotlines that outstrip the prose, with the constant I-Get-It-Do-You-Get-It? nudge-nudging that seems to be the currency in which so many contemporary writers traffic in. This is not, of course, to say that all self-aware, reflexive, fanciful writing is garbagesimply that ...more
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The stories in this debut collection are extraordinary. Daniel Alarcón was born in Lima, raised in Alabama, spent time in Peru as a Fulbright scholar, and now lives in Oakland. Most of the stories in "War by Candlelight" are set in Peru; three take place in New York City. Whether writing about political instability in Lima or emotional turmoil in Manhattan, Alarcón writes with a kind of unobtrusive brilliance that is astonishing. I'd finish one of these stories, marvel at how awesome it was, ...more
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I will admit my not-so-secret crush on Daniel Alarcón. His "City of Clowns" still haunts me, while "Third Avenue Suicide" brings back so much pain and sadness... War by Candlelight remains a close, meaningful favorite.
Daniel Alarcon, author of this book, was one of the 2010 The New Yorker's 20 under 40 authors list. I have been sampling the works of these authors since the list was published. This year I am making an effort to read at least one book by each of them. War By Candlelight is my first completion of the year. I enjoyed this book of short stories very much.

The nine stories are set in either Lima, Peru or NY, NY. Many of those in Peru have a war focus that has me looking at the history of Peru. I
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Alarcón is a talented writer. But there is something just a touch off here. A bourgeois son of two Peruvian (meaning coastal) physicians, who was raised in Alabama and studied anthropology at Columbia, he has chosen to write about much rougher characters in Harlem and in the war torn jungles of Peru. He writes very well, but the artifice does show through.
Carl R.
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In the best collection of short stories Ive read in years, Daniel Alarcón has purchased himself a place among the leading young American authors. His well-reviewed new novel Lost City Radio may erase the word young from that phrase, though. I havent read it yet. I think the guys got it all and that were in for years of delicious reading.
Alarcons background is unique in that it is so unremarkable for a guy who writes about such exotic locations and subjects Yes, he was born in Lima (Peru, not
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peru, short-stories
Daniel Alarcón is a young Peruvian-American author whose short stories in War by Candlelight straddle both worlds, Peru and Los Uniteds. I am always somewhat abashed when I pick up a book at the library not expecting much and find I have made a discovery. People don't read short stories as much any more. I do: I've even read a new Haruki Murakami in the new Yorker during lunchtime. I suspect that, like Murakami, Alarcón has the stuff to write good novels as well.

For one thing, he has a turn of
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This part will haunt me forever:
"Leaving is no problem. It's exciting actually; in fact, it's drug. It's the staying gone that will kill you. This is the handed-down wisdom of the immigrant. You hear it from the people who wander home, after a decade away. You hear about the euphoria that passes quickly; the new things that lose their newness and, soon after, their capacity to amuse you. Language is bewildering. You tire of exploring. Then the list of things you miss multiplies beyond reason,
Robbie Bruens
I have the same attitude toward a plot of the usual type as a dentist to teeth. - Viktor Shklovsky. Daniel Alarcón opened the class he taught at Cal that I was lucky enough to be a part of with that quote. It's curious then that Alarcón's first book generally eschews the kind of peculiarity that comes to (my) mind in thinking about what Shklovsky means by approaching a plot of the usual type like a dentist. That's not to say his plots are structured in an overly conventional way - there are a ...more
Fabiola Barral
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal collection of short stories. Each are simple in plot but rich in imagery and emotion. One of my favorite lines is: "It came upon him all at once, a summer storm brewed from a cloudless sky, and rendered him-- in a quick and cold fashion-- a ghost, a negative image, weak and formless, a fourth cup from a single bag of tea". Alarcón shifts his settings between Peru and the United Sates in his tales and manages to make each feel the pain and beauty of home. Definite reccomendation!
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely incredible. It's structured as separate short stories, but the thread carried through it all is the Peruvian experience in the 70s and 80s - even if that experience is in America.

Immigration, war, terror, communism, love, poverty, family - the author describes everything in such a delicate, detailed, rich way that leaves you with a tinge of despair. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Vanessa Hua
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Lasting images, compelling conflicts, lifetimes summed up in a few pages.
Lesley Palmer
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read this as part of the Shelterbox book club, Shelterbox is a UK charity that raises funds for disaster relief. This is a collection of shorts based in Peru and the US.

Alarcón knows how to convey a scene sharply and briskly. The stories are varied. I particularly enjoyed the clown story, an interésting perspective. Most of the stories are brutal and violent, and I found the comment the grandparents withhold their love till the child survives two winters ineffably sad, but entirely believable.
Wray F
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this book before our trip to Peru and I read most of it in lodgings in Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa and, finally, Lima. I knew most of the stories were based in Lima, where we would end our trip. The stories were small slices of life that involved humble characters trying to make their way in life. Early stories involved criminals and later ones involved people in relationships of different sorts, trying to get by. I didn't really connect with the characters much. I appreciated the ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
These short stories are mostly set in Peru, taking place over the last several decades, in times of war and poverty and inequality. Daniel Alarcón finds many different angles to explore in each new story, but they all share themes of struggling. Many of his characters struggle financially and emotionally, but the most harrowing struggle with whether their lives have any purpose. These are difficult stories to read, but helpful to understanding some of what contemporary Peruvians may have faced ...more
Rachel Quinlan
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Good insight in to life in Peru. But I struggled with the book, as Im not a fan of short stories. I dont feel theres enough time to get involved with the characters. I would have preferred one longer, more involved story, or maybe some kind of connection between the stories to make it in one? Some felt like they were over before theyd begun, like an idea was forming and then disappeared, made the stories forgetful. ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another winner from Daniel Alarcon. These engaging short stories provide a fascinating view of Peruvians in the capital and in the countryside as well as Peruvian immigrants in New York. They are poignant, but not sentimental, funny (sometimes only in hindsight), and the author is so compassionate towards his characters.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
The author is clearly talented and these short stories paint a vivid picture of life in Peru. Unfortunately they all seem to fizzle out, not reaching any conclusion, which makes them an unsatisfactory read.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Not a bad book, and gives a plethora of views in which a war, a conflict is a ghost in the past, or a central mover in the present. He writes in many styles and captures in most. I just was not moved, but would recommend.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
He writes about all the possibilities of loss and love. The books gives an interesting window on Peru, the Peruvian diaspora, and just plain old being a twenty something. I really want to read more of his work as hes grown older. ...more
James Smith
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting, and at times moving, collection of short stories, many set throughout the turbulent history of Lima, Peru. Definitely worth a read to give a bit of perspective on the world today.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
A few stories left an impression on me... a few I could have taken or left. Overall, a solid collection.
Pickle Farmer
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
A nice straightfoward collection; basic literary realism. I liked the stories set in New York the most. I think the sentence that most made me LOL was the one that described backpackers wearing "pants that unzip to become parachutes or inflatable rafts" (153) Ha ha ha! I also liked this passage a lot: "Americans always feel bad. They wander the globe carrying this opulent burden. They take digital photographs and buy folk art, feeling a dull disappointment in themselves, and in the world. They ...more
Steven Buechler
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There is a certain thread of malaise that link the stories in Daniel Alarcon's War by Candlelight. It is a sort of discomfort or despair that is really never defined but exists. And it makes this book a great read.

Page 6-7 flood

Everywhere there was water and the muddy remains of the flood. The clouds broke but the water stayed. A pestilent odor hung in the streets. Summer came on heavy. Some people moved their furniture outside to dry, or set their dank carpets on the roof to catch the sun.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I was running down my to-read list in the library yesterday and found this book, read that the author was Peruvian, and immediately hunted it down in the fiction aisle, seeing as I'm leaving for Peru the day after tomorrow. I'm glad I did -- Alarcón really gives you a feeling for the varied experiences of Peruvians and Pervuian-Americans and their complicated history as a people, as well as for the country's manifold physical settings, and the stories here do seem to establish a human context ...more
Gerard Tarpey
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
  The nine short tales in this terrific collection each stand tall on their own, are easy to read and enjoy, and impossible to put down.  Simply put, they grab you at the opening sentence and refuse to let go.  These are stories of hope and despair, of love and loss, and of the human spirit at its best and worst.

  I bought this book to introduce myself to Daniel Alarcón before attempting to read his new novel, "At Night We Walk In Circles" and am very glad I did.  His knowledge, understanding
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Girl Made of Dust
  • The Pact We Made
  • Housegirl
  • Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen
  • Orphan of Islam
  • Watching the Tree
  • Another Country
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"
  • The Shell Collector
  • Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story (English and Spanish Edition)
  • The Monk
  • A Woman of Firsts: The Midwife Who Built a Hospital and Changed the World
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
  • Political Visions & Illusions: A Survey & Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies
  • What Have You Lost?
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • The Thing Around Your Neck
See similar books…
Daniel Alarcóns fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, Virginia Quarterly Review, Salon, Eyeshot and elsewhere. He is Associate Editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine based in his native Lima, Peru. His story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, and the British journal Granta recently named ...more

Related Articles

The Peruvian novelist follows a guerrilla theater troupe's exploits in At Night We Walk in Circles and recommends five gifted peers.
12 likes · 3 comments