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Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
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Kristel (kristelh) | 4183 comments Mod
read 2018
This story set in South America, written by British author de Bernieres’, is both a love story and a story of violence and horror. It is fantastical, full of magical realism and humor which helps with the horror of violence but in the end it is mostly a very dark story of drug cartel violence and one man’s efforts to make a change in some way through his letters to the newspaper and in the end he loses everything but wins the battle.

message 2: by Gail (last edited Apr 01, 2020 03:01PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1458 comments I read this for Book's #Readaroundtheworld challenge for Colombia. The book is actually set in a make believe country and makes specific reference to: "This is not Colombia you know". However, the author lived in Colombia and it clearly reflects the absurdity and tragedy of a South American country torn apart by civil wars, by bombastic presidents or dictators and more than anything else by the cocaine drug cartels.
The story launches rather slowly with a extremely stubborn and naive philosophy professor named Vivo who believes that the pen is mightier than the sword and is out to combat the drug lords via stating the truth in the editorial pages of the national newspaper. The people grant him mythical powers by virtue of seeing him not be killed by the drug lords. The kingpin drug lord is a take off on Pablo Escobar and is called Pablo Ecobandoda or El Jerarca in the book. There is a large assembly of characters that include a host of ancient gods who have magical powers and who disguise themselves as Catholic saints, Vivo's love Anica, his best friend, Anica and Vivio's family, a group of characters from a magical village in the mountains, roommates and women from the local brothel, a leper, the president of the country, an army of women who worship Vivo, El Jerarca's small time but extremely violent henchmen, a journalist etc. etc. The book takes a long time to introduce us to all these people and some of the introductions are not necessary to the plot of the story. About midway through the book I was getting tired of the idiotic love problems that Vivo and Anica are having that could have been solved with the truth and although I knew the author would tie the many strands together it wasn't keeping my attention. Then, suddenly the magical realism and absurdist situations transformed into graphically violent tragedy. It was not so much a twist as a wrench and de Bernieres' brings home the senselessness of the drug violence. I also appreciated the theme of the power of women when they band together.
It was an interesting book and I appreciated a lot of the lush writing and the wit but didn't feel as if it pulled off all of its ambition. Nevertheless I gave it 4 stars for being quite unique. Very different from Corelli's Mandolin.

Diane  | 2050 comments Rating: 4 stars

I really love de Berniere's writing style. I love how he infuses humor among more serious topics. All humor aside, I think he makes an important statement about the cocaine trade and it's effects on Latin America. There were some graphically gruesome scenes toward the end that caught me off guard.

I didn't realize that this is actually the second book in a trilogy. I thought, for some reason, that it was the first. I feel that this book stood well by itself, but I woulld have liked to have read the first installment first.

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