The News from Paraguay
Through the eyes of a legion of characters from all sectors of society, Lily Tuck gives us the distressing news from mid-nineteenth century Paraguay: fictionalized but true stories of war, disease, and poverty inflicted upon a beautiful country by a maniacal dictator. The novel begins promisingly in Paris where Ella Lynch, a lovely Irish courtesan, is living well above her means. She catches the eye of Franco Lopez, an educated ambassador who happens to be the son of the president of Paraguay. Soon they are on a steamer back to his country, and she is bearing the first of his five sons. When Franco’s father dies, Franco’s violent, megalomaniac tendencies come to the fore. He spares no one, not even kin, from his rages. Ultimately, he leads his country into ruin. All the while, the self-absorbed Ella rarely criticizes, in fact, seems ignorant of her lover’s shortcomings – a missed opportunity, for what this well-written but coldly-told tale needs is an objective outsider to supply a steady point of reference in a incomprehensibly brutal world. Ms. Tuck has done her research – the novel is bursting with detail – but the collection of facts leaves this reader craving the illumination that good fiction should supply.