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The News from Paraguay

3.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,044 ratings  ·  241 reviews
The year is l854. In Paris, Francisco Solano -- the future dictator of Paraguay -- begins his courtship of the young, beautiful Irish courtesan Ella Lynch with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde. Ella follows Franco to Asunción and reigns there as his mistress. Isolated and estranged in this new world, she embraces her lover's ill-fated imperial dream ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published May 4th 2004)
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3.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,044 ratings  ·  241 reviews

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Today I played the role of nurse to an almost seven year old who stayed home from school with a cold. In search of easy reading, I pulled The News from Paraguay from my library pile. The 2004 National Book Award winner, Parisian born Lily Tuck had been the author of three previous historical fiction novels, all set in 19th century France. Set in revolutionary Paraguay, this novel centered around the illicit relationship between Paraguayan president Francisco Solano Lopez and his lover Ella Lynch ...more
Erica Verrillo
Oct 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
I opened this book without having read a single review, armed solely with the knowledge that it had won the National Book Award. I wish I had been armed with a paper shredder. For such a rich and potentially captivating topic, Tuck did a horrendous job. The life of the beautiful Ella Lynch, mistress South America's most enigmatic and charismatic tyrant, should have provided us with cultural and personal insights beyond a standard history text book. For example, I would have liked to have finishe ...more
Jul 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Our book club chose this selection and prior to reading it, I glanced over the reviews posted on Based on the low ratings, I was ready for a slow and unsophisticated novel. I was very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and especially appreciated the various perspectives from which the story was told. The book is composed of a series of vignettes and I thought rather than slow the story, it allowed the reader to understand these events in history and the motivations ...more
Austen to Zafón
Jul 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you enjoy Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I bet you'll like this read. I do and I did. It's historical fiction with the author reminding us that the emphasis is on the noun in that description. Although I enjoyed the history aspect (too unbelievable to be fiction), I LOVED Tuck's ability to paint the clearest pictures of all of her characters. Every single person, from the leading man and woman down to the brothers in the army, comes to life with their mini-sagas. You understand them, even if you don ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009
Well... I finished the novel. I can't say that I enjoyed it, and I really hoped that I would. In college, I had read a lot of stories about Paraguay and the Guaraníes, so I had high hopes for this story.

Instead, what you get is a choppy novel filled with what could have been interesting characters but, since they weren't fully developed, they came across as very one dimensional. And, the violence and gore towards the end of the novel were a bit over-the-top for me, especially since I have a ten
Jun 29, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. Paraguay has such a fascinating history that I was glad to see that someone had written a book of historical fiction about Francisco Solano Lopez and his Irish mistress Elisa Lynch. The style of the book is cut and paste – it mixes first person with third person, present with future, fiction with historical data. I could forgive the disjointed writing but found difficult to forgive the many passages aimed to make my stomach turn. It was impossible to forgive the many ...more
Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
If I could rate this 3.5, I would. I had a hard time connecting with Lily Tuck's writing style--which is stunning throughout, but hit me like pelted stones somehow. One feels a bit flinchy reading this; characters are not developed on the page so much as they are "stamped." And yet, as I got to the end, I found that I cared deeply for what happened to them (tragedy, of course). I even flipped back and began immediately re-reading earlier parts. Perhaps having had no previous knowledge of the war ...more
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: fiction
This book was loaned to me by someone who's taste in reading I respect, and the other night I was talking to my oldest friend in the world and she told me how much she loved the book, but it did nothing for me - except to make me wonder how such a poorly written story could get published. I think the two main problems I had with the book was the poor writing and jumping. When you have to go back over a sentence 2 or 3 times to understand what the writer is trying to say, then there's a problem. ...more
Sep 10, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: nobody
Probably the worst book I read this year - and it won a prestigious book award and glowing reviews. How?! This author's idea of depicting culture in that part of South America is to mention all the mate people drink. Sere's a hint, mate is about as ubiquitous in that part of the world as Starbucks is in the US. So it's not a terribly clever technique. Also, her idea of character development is to go into TMI detail about the sexual proclivities and back histories of every single character. Again ...more
Nancy Davison
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: friends
I read this book as soon as I heard about it. I had recently returned from the Peace Corps in Paraguay and was immediately back in that country, with the weather and the history of the War of the Triple Alliance. This is the third time I've read it and I have, TBR, "Woman on Horseback," by William E. Barrett, about the same people and the same era. I've been there and seen it, and heard people talk about Madama Lynch and Francia and the Lopez family, so it's brilliantly THERE for me every time I ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
This novel is based on actual happenings, so it's harder to take in than if it had all been fiction. An Irish woman, divorced in Paris, meets a Paraguayan man and returns to that country with him, has his children, and aids him in his ambitions to lead the country after his father's death. The incredible cruelty of so many characters is almost unbelievable. The narration is too rote to make the characters come alive, but I kept reading just the learn the outcome. I don't recommend this one! I ga ...more
Joseph Gendron
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and its relation to real events and places. It is unfortunate that there is not a map included to help the reader follow the action better. Paraguay has a unique geography and the author does a good job of describing it. The story presented here is tragic, as is the history, but a very interesting read.
Jun 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
Okay, I didn't actually finish this book. I disliked it from the start, and my dislike just kept increasing to the point where I realized I needed to stop reading. So much for National Book Award winners....
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable, a quick read. Learned some things about a country that I knew very little about before.
This National Book Award Winner is historical fiction that takes place mostly in Paraguay, in the 1860's. The story mainly follows Ella Lynch, the young, beautiful Irish woman who comes home with the president's son after his trip to Europe. It is difficult to say whether or not Ella and Franco actually love each other, but they do stay together, though never marry, throughout the fifteen years that Ella is in Paraguay. During those fifteen years Ella gives birth to seven children, five of which ...more
Cheryl A
Winner of the National Book Award, The News from Paraguay is the beautifully written, but hard to digest, story of Eliza (Ella) Lynch, mistress to Franco Lopez, dictator of Paraguay in the mid 1860's. Told in short sections from various points of view, the novel isn't linear, but rather short vignettes which as a whole create a snapshot of the time and people.

The novel is a study in contrasts – the frivolous and egoistical lifestyles of the Lopez family and the oppressive lives of the natives. E
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was an ok book; I'd have liked to give it a better mark but it was so inconsistent and unsatisfying in some parts that I couldn't. Basically, this is an "historical novel/romance" that can't really decide what it is. There's not enough information to call it historical and very little romance. (Descriptions of oral sex don't count, nor do descriptions of sexual positions. I don't object to these at all but it's a little cold and doesn't really add to the story, sounding more like passages f ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
as insane as paraguay and its history is, this could have been WAY more outrageous. good novel though, i will see if i like lily tuck better with her other book "Interviewing Matisse, or, The woman who died standing up". good title anyway. that's good. this one is national book award winner 2004. i have been reading lots of these nat award winners for fiction, and there seems to be a disturbing pattern that is if you have read THIS novel (lily tuck's) you have ALL the winners, by and large. what ...more
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
This historical fiction begins in Paris in 1854 where Irish socialite Ella meets the future dictator of Paraguay, Francisco. The book follows their lives as his father dies, and Francisco steps up to lead the country, his decision to make war with the neighboring countries, her life as the pampered mistress and mother of his children. The second half of the book details the effects of Francisco's scorched earth policies as his uninformed decisions create havoc (death, torture, destitution) on ev ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
This historical novel takes place in Paraguay in the mid 1800’s a time and place I know nothing about. Ella Lynch an Irishwoman meets Francisco Solano Lopez "Franco”, a dictator from Paraguay, while he is visiting France. She is wooed by him and his grandiose talk of how he will make Asunción as grand as Paris. Tuck paints a vivid picture of Paraguay, from the beauty of the country and to the brutality of the dictatorship and war.
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was easy to put down. It won a National Book Award, so I kept reading even though I wasn't liking it. But, I'm not sure why it won an award. Horrible things happen and there's no serious concern from the characters and it all seems senseless and meaningless. None of the characters were sympathetic or terribly interesting. It's historical fiction though, so if you were interested from that perspective, maybe there's more going on. But I found this fairly torturous.
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book was just eh... I managed to finish it but the ending was lacking in tying the whole book together - not to mention I found myself skipping through passages pertaining to the war that seemed repetitive and boring. This subject matter had so much potential and there are shining moments in the story but overall I was rather disappointed.
RH Walters
Feb 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is an award winning book, but I really slogged through it. Well written, but the story line was not of much interest.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I read the first part of the book really fast and enjoyed it. The main character, Ella, is being wooed by a Paraguan gentleman. She is really irish, and just hanging around Paris and ends up going with him to Paraguay. She gets pregnant even before they arrive and has the baby in Buenos Aires while he goes up the river to Ascencion. This is all in the time period of Napoleon 1 - 3 and also the Civil war, and those are mentioned. It tells of the horrid conditions in Paraguay but also the naivite. ...more
Veronica Liew
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
PIcked this book up without much expectations, as I was not familiar with the writer, nor did I know that this was based on historical facts. Even though I felt the story needed more depth to the protagonists, the long unfurling of events gave the reader a multi-faceted view of their person, because Tuck seemed to be doing a lot of "telling" instead of showing. Obviously Tuck had a lot of reference material to refer to and used them to full effect in certain descriptive sections, but mostly the ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok

I really love South American literature and had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, overall, it failed to deliver. It was written in a vignette style, with little stories and episodes from the lives of dozens of different characters, most no longer than a few paragraphs. Many of these were prettily written, some were evocative, and a few were elucidating of the characters and the setting.

However, I don't think this style worked well with the subject matter of the novel. Maybe Lily Tuck w
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Lily Tuck is an American novelist and short story writer whose novel The News from Paraguay won the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction. Her novel Siam was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She has published four other novels, a collection of short stories, and a biography of Italian novelist Elsa Morante (see "Works" below).
An American citizen born in Paris, Tuck now divides