Cover image for The news from Paraguay : a novel
Title:
The news from Paraguay : a novel
Author:
Tuck, Lily, 1938-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper Collins Publishers, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
248 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780066209449
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

For him it began with a bright blue parrot feather that fell from Ella Lynch's hat when she was horseback riding in the Bois de Boulogne. The year was 1854, and Francisco Solano Lopez -- "Franco," the future dictator of Paraguay -- began his courtship of the young, beautiful Irishwoman with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde.

From Paris, Ella Lynch follows Franco to Asunci#65533;n, where she reigns as his mistress. Isolated and estranged in this new world, she embraces her lover's ill-fated dream -- one fueled by outsize imperial ambition and heedless arrogance, and with devastating consequences for Paraguay and all its inhabitants.

A historical epic that tells an unusual love story, The News from Paraguay offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of nineteenth-century Paraguay, a largely untouched wilderness where Europeans and North Americans intermingle with both the old Spanish aristocracy and native Guaran#65533; Indians.

The urgency of the narrative, the imaginative richness of its intimate detail, and the wealth of characters whose stories are skillfully layered and unfolded recall the epic novels of Gabriel Garc#65533;a M#65533;rquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The News from Paraguay captures the devastating havoc wrought on both a country's fate and a woman's heart by ruthless ambition and war.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The news isn't so good, at least by the end of this saga by the author of the award-winning Siam (2000). The focus of her new novel is shared by two actual nineteenth-century historical figures: Paraguayan caudillo Francisco Solano Lopez and his Irish-born mistress, Ella Lynch. From the boulevards of Paris, where Ella meets the magnetic but uncouth South American, she follows him to the very provincial Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, and plays Madame de Pompadour to his Louis XV--but her sexy Franco is a small-time dictator trying to make more of his patria than it can support. A catastrophic war with Brazil and Argentina completely flattens the country. Ella ends her days back in Europe, to live on in history as one of those famous paramours of powerful leaders--always good fodder for historical fiction. This novel moves along swiftly but, unfortunately, not very deeply; characterizations seem more image than substance. Still, this is an interesting time and place, so expect requests from historical-novel lovers. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2004 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Beautiful Ella Lynch left her native Ireland at 10 and married a French officer at 15; by 19, she is divorced, living with a Russian count and struggling to pay her embittered maid. Thus she's in prime shape to appreciate the quick and ardent attentions of Francisco Solano Lopez, aka Franco, the future dictator of Paraguay, when he spies her on horseback in a Paris park in 1854. Rich, generous and not unhandsome, he makes an appealing lover, and soon Ella is off with him to Paraguay, which he vows to make "a country exactly like France." The story unfolds through Tuck's elegant narration (she flits from one character's point-of-view to another in short segments) and Ella's impassioned diaries. The author's research is impressive (Ella was a real 19th-century courtesan) but never overbearing as she explores the life of a spoiled kept woman in a foreign land, as well as the lives, both high and low, of those around her. Established as Franco's mistress in Asuncion, Ella bears Franco many sons, while Franco succeeds his father as ruler and acquires mistress after mistress. Tuck (Siam; Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived) weaves in the stories of Franco's fat, jealous sisters; a disgraced Philadelphia doctor; Ella's wet nurses; and a righteous U.S. minister, among many others, in a richly layered evocation of a complicated world. When Paraguay finds itself at odds with neighboring countries, the novel chronicles the various tragedies and defeats with a cool and unswerving eye. Tuck's novel may not be for the faint of heart, but it is a rich and rewarding read. Agent, Georges Borchardt. 5-city author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In 1854, when a beautiful young divorcee named Ella Lynch catches the eye of dictator-in-training Franco Lopez, she leaves Paris and her live-in lover to move with him to Paraguay. Intelligent, astoundingly fertile, and an active supporter of Lopez's reign of terror and annihilation of the population (including, eventually, his siblings and mother), Ella thrives in her role as his culture-hungry mistress. Interweaving fictional diary entries and letters with historical fact, Tuck (Siam; Or, The Woman Who Shot a Man) tracks dozens of players in an ugly chapter of Paraguayan history from which, it is argued, the country has yet to recover; the shock waves of repugnant cruelty and boorishness ripple from the opening pages clear to the end. A gripping read, this is recommended for readers who have strong stomachs and no need for sympathetic protagonists.-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The News from Paraguay A Novel Chapter One Paris For him it began with a feather. A bright blue parrot feather that fell out of Ella Lynch's hat while she was horseback riding one afternoon in the Bois de Boulogne. Blond, fair-skinned and Irish, Ella was a good rider -- the kind of natural rider who rides with her ass, not her legs -- and she was riding astride on a nervous little gray thoroughbred mare. Cantering a few paces behind Ella and her companion, Francisco Solano Lopez was also a good rider -- albeit a different sort of rider. He rode from strength, the strength in his arms, the strength in his thighs. Also he liked to ride big horses, horses that measured over sixteen, seventeen hands; at home, he often rode a big sure-footed cantankerous brown mule. Pulling up on the reins and getting off his horse, his heavy silver spurs clanging, Franco -- as Francisco Solano Lopez was known -- picked the feather up from the ground; it briefly occurred to him that Inocencia, his fat sister, would know what kind of parrot feather it was, for she kept hundreds of parrots in her aviary in Asunción, but it was Ella and not the feather that had caught Franco's attention. The year was 1854 and the forty miles of bridle paths and carriage roads were filled with elegant calèches, daumonts, phaetons; every afternoon, weather permitting, Empress Eugénie could be seen driving with her equerry. Every afternoon too, Empress Eugénie, in fashion obsessed Paris, could be seen wearing a different dress, a dress of a different color: Crimean green, Sebastopol blue, Bismarck brown.The Bois de Boulogne had recently been transformed from a ruined forest into an elegant English park. Sent as ambassador-at-large to Europe by his father, twenty-six-year old Franco was dressed in a field marshal's uniform modeled on Napoleon's, only his jacket was green -- Paraguayan green. He was short, stocky -- not yet grown stout nor had his back teeth begun to trouble him -- and his thick eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead like a black stripe but he was not unattractive. He was self-confident, naïve, ambitious, energetic, spoilt -- never had anything, except once one thing, been denied him -- and he was possessed of an immense fortune. Franco put the feather in his pocket and mounted his horse again. He caught up with Ella easily and followed her home. At age ten, Eliza Alicia Lynch had left Ireland; at fifteen, Elisa Alice Lynch married a French army officer; at nineteen, divorced and living with a handsome but impecunious Russian count, Ella Lynch needed to reinvent herself. 14 March 1854 A lovely afternoon! I rode the little mare again in the Bois with Dimitri. [ Ella wrote in her diary that evening .] Each day I grow fonder of her -- her mouth is as soft as silk and a touch of the rein is sufficient. Her canter puts me in mind of sitting in a rocking chair! But how can I possibly afford to buy a horse? Already I owe John Worth a fortune! Oh, how I loathe worrying about money all the time! Money and servants both! When I returned home and was changing my clothes, I once again had to listen to Marie complain about Pierre whom she accuses of drinking my wine and who knows what other thefts -- servants are addicted to their tales of intrigue and to their jealousies! Also, Marie's chatter nearly made me late -- today was the opening of the Salon! However, as it turned out, I was fortunate. The President of the Jury himself, the Count of Morny, was the first person I met and he took me by the arm and recounted how the day before, his half brother, the Emperor, had gone through all the galleries never once stopping, never once glancing at the paintings, until he arrived at the last gallery -- the least important gallery, the gallery filled with the most mediocre paintings -- and then the Emperor, out of duty, the count supposes, stopped in front of a hideous picture of the Alps -- the Alps looking exactly like a stack of bread loaves! -- and after staring at it for a good five minutes, the Emperor turned to the poor count and said: "The painter should have indicated the relative heights." I could hardly contain myself and laughed until tears streamed down my cheeks! Rain was falling when finally I left the exhibition to go to supper and of course in my haste I had forgotten to bring an umbrella but, as luck would have it, a gentleman smoking a foul-smelling cigar was standing at the door and he offered me his. From Paraguay, Franco had brought with him crates of oranges and tobacco. On board ship, the oranges started to rot, the sailors squeezed them and drank the juice; the tobacco fared better. The tobacco (the Paraguayan leaves are allowed to mature on the stem and, as a result, contain more nicotine) beat out the Cuban entry and was awarded a first-class medal at the Paris Exhibition; the citation read, Very good collection of leaves, especially suitable for cigars . In addition to the tobacco, Franco had brought dozens of ponchos as gifts; the ponchos were made from a vegetable silk called samahu whose softness was much admired. After he followed Ella home, he had one of the ponchos delivered to her house on rue du Bac with his card. Pierre, Ella's valet de chambre, put Francisco Solano Lopez's card on top of the other cards on the silver tray on the table in the front hall of the house on rue du Bac; then he gave the package with the poncho in it to Marie, the maid. The poncho was badly wrapped in brown paper and, curious, Marie opened it. Also, the package smelled strange. Like tea. The color of red soil, the poncho, although soft and no doubt warm, did not look like the clothes Ella usually wore -- her fur stole, her velvet cloaks and paisley cashmere shawls ... The News from Paraguay A Novel . Copyright © by Lily Tuck. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The News from Paraguay: A Novel by Lily Tuck All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.