Cover image for The vision of Elena Silves
The vision of Elena Silves
Shakespeare, Nicholas, 1957-
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1990.
Physical Description:
249 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi book"--T.p. verso.
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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In a heady mixture of revelation and revolution, first-novelist Shakespeare limns the history of Belen, a jungle town in South America, and the love relationship between Gabriel Lung and Elena Silves. Refracted through the observations of three elderly gentlemen who sit together, day after day, in the town square reminiscing, the relationship between the young lovers becomes emblematic of their country's tortured politics. Enamored of socialist philosophy, Gabriel falls in with a radical group called the Shining Path and becomes caught in the crossfire when the fringe band attempts to pull off a coup. Doomed to live a life on the run, he meets Elena in a ramshackle hut, where she has a life-changing vision of the Virgin Mary. Twenty years later, they meet again, each disillusioned with the path they have chosen. Wrapping an almost mythical framework around the doomed relationship, Shakespeare injects the whole with equal parts revolutionary fervor and religious fanaticism. A sweeping, compelling read. ~--Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. ( Nov. ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This first novel has all the basic ingredients of a rough-and-tumble South American tale--a crooked bishop, a greedy mayor, sun-beaten town squares, suffocating jungles, and terrorists bubbling up everywhere. Thrown into the mix is an unusual love story between a revolutionary of Chinese descent (blond hair, blue eyes?) and a local girl who is blessed with a vision. The result is some fairly eclectic reading. The intended audience is not clear: the heroine's religious sighting appears 153 pages into the story; the love interest unfolds in fits and spurts until the final pages; and the overthrow of the Peruvian government by the Shining Path gets cursory treatment at best. If this summary sounds confusing, it is; buy if you think the combination of intrigue and smattering of social consciousness will appeal to your patrons.-- Sandra Collins, Trinity Episcopal Sch. for Ministry Lib., Ambridge, Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.