A first novel by the author of "Londoners" and set in the colonial city of Belen in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, this is the story of a love affair between Gabriel, a young revolutionary, and Elvina Silva, the beautiful descendant of Portuguese rubber barons.
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Nicholas Shakespeare was born in 1957. The son of a diplomat, much of his youth was spent in the Far East and South America. His books have been translated into 20 languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), Snowleg, The Dancer Upstairs, Secrets of the Sea, Inheritance and Priscilla. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He currently lives in Oxford.From Publishers Weekly:
One might have thought that the tradition of a British observer romancing the jungles of South America ended with Graham Greene. But no: the lure of the unwashed still pulls, and cocaine trafficking conveniently provides a contemporary hook. The eponymous Elena Silves, born in 1948 in the city of Belen ("Peru's tropical gateway city and door to the mysterious Amazon") has a vision of the Virgin Mary at age 17 while she is in hiding with Gabriel Rondon Lung--a half-Chinese, half-Portuguese Marxist. Shakespeare, literary editor of London's Daily Telegraph , exploits these two simplistic poles of the South American character--fervent Catholicism and political revolution--so much so that the real fates of his characters (Elena spends 18 years in a convent; Gabriel, the same amount of time in prison and on the run) are virtually passed over. Instead, the two rush to a breathless climax--lovers united at last--but far removed from a history that the author is attracted to, it seems, only as exotic backdrop. At a time when British writing is being hailed for its multicultural sensibilities--Rushdie, Kureishi, Ishiguro--this is a disappointing debut.
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