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on June 25, 2004
I first read Francisco Goldman's writing in a piece featured in HALF AND HALF, a book about the biracial and bicultural experience in the United States. Goldman's cultural/racial background as a half Guatemalan/half Jewish American is parallel to the identity of the main character, Roger (Rogerio).
The descriptions and style in this book are what set it apart from other novels about cultural identity, human struggle and the untimely death of the other main character, Flor De Mayo, who mysteriously murdered. Goldman alternates between the first person voice of Rogerio and the third person, depending on the circumstance, and paints a vivid and colorful picture of life in the United States and its contrast with the harsh and violent environment of Guatemala that Flor flees as a young orphan raised by Roger's family as their housekeeper/nanny/surrogate daughter. It is easy to see how so many characters in the book are drawn to the vivacious, intelligent and sensitive Flor. I could hear the voice of every character in this piece, and the scenes played out in my mind like a film. I can't wait to read more of his novels.
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on August 1, 1998
As a fan of all things Latin, I really wanted to like this book, and was led to believe by reviews that it was written in the rich and fantastical style of Latin-inspired storytelling. Wrong! What could have been a compelling tale is botched up by the skilless jumps forward and backward in time. (Usually, if a good writer tells us at the outset what happens to one of the main characters -- in this case, a murder -- the subsequent description of things leading to up the the event are more interesting than the event itself. Not the case in this book). The historical framework of Guatemala is leaked in awkward places in the narrative, and the usage of Spanish-language phrases are often translated when they don't need to be, or not translated when they should be. I betcha Goldman will surprise us one day with a winner -- I think he has the core talent -- but this ain't it.
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on April 28, 2003
One of the wonderful things about Francisco Goldman's writing, and this book, is that he conveys the complexity of his characters' emotions and relationships to one another in a way that few novelists do. Because there isn't a simple explanation for Flor's murder, and because the narrator's relationship with her isn't simple either, this novel explores a lot side roads, but they do all connect and are worth taking. A rich and absorbing novel, and unique as well. Highly recommended.
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on July 24, 2002
Goldman tells his story in non-linear and chaotic time in order to convey how chaotic and frightening life in Guatemala was during the brutal military regimes of the early 1980s. I found myself having trouble keeping track (is this the present or a flashback?), but it didn't matter. His writing is witty and poetic, his characters are unique. His observations of class, culture, North American paternalism and murderous politcal oppression in Central America are tough and accurate.
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on February 26, 2004
Like most readers, I was confused my the crazy timeline. The story is told out of sequences with flashbacks that last forever. It can be confusing. But once you let go of that it becomes easier to surrender to the story. The characters are lovable. It is a long read but every time I put the book down I missed Roger, Flor, Mora, and the rest.
Just enjoy it!
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on June 22, 1998
Great novels are worlds unto themselves. Such is The Long Night of the White Chicken. I gave it 5 stars to hike up its average which I found lacking.
This book creates a universe, rich and dense, in sounds ("Vos?"), lights and images (the last second of the stripper's stripping): one finds there a world, incredibly exotic, literary, and yet familiar. Only the greatest novels manage to convey both a sense of their art, and yet convince the reader he is walking just another one of life's streets.
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on December 15, 1999
Although there have been many complaints about the author's writing, I had no trouble following this book. This guy writes like Guatemalans talk (he has no discernible train of thought, jumps from subject to subject and goes on way too long)and his narrator is annoyingly shallow and self-involved and feels way to sorry for himself, so it was like going out on any given occasion and hearing a typical sob story from a guy who's had too much to drink... I felt right at home! He got all the expressions and all the scenery right.. the description of street kids sniffing glue while looking in store windows made me laugh and cry, because it's so familiar and sad. But I must admit that the most fun I had with this book was passing it around to my family and friends and then figuring out who the characters really were (and if you're Guatemalan, you can). Fijate vos, I really enjoyed this one...
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on April 30, 1999
Whilst this book was worth reading, talk about stringing out a story. Normally a book takes me a week maximum to read...this took me MONTHS. It was starting to feel like a part of my anatomy.
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on May 13, 1998
i renamed this one the long book of white knuckles. the only suspense for me was the question, "when will it end?"
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