I am always cautious when an author includes an historical figure in a novel. It is one thing to have the fictional protagonist meet an historical figure (see Roddy Doyle, Jeffrey Eugenides), but for such a figure to be so central. . . Dangerous stuff. Ampuero has a motive. A one-time neighbor of Neruda’s, he sought, according to his author’s note, to create a more complete portrait of the revered figure. Indeed, Neruda does come off as selfish and cruel here, but is that accurate? Is it even a complete account of Neruda’s life? We see little of his creativity and what he meant to people, but that could be outside of Ampuero’s scope. He may assume we already know all that.

At first, Ampuero’s prose made me sit up and pay attention. But it quickly tuns into pretty stock stuff. That may be the fault of his translator, Carolina de Robertis.

I can’t recommend this one.

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