Lima Nights: Book summary and reviews of Lima Nights by Marie Arana

Lima Nights

By Marie Arana

Lima Nights
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2008,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

From a National Book Award finalist—for her memoir American Chica—and the author of the acclaimed novel Cellophane comes this spare, powerful story of sexual obsession and its consequences.

Carlos Bluhm leads the good life in upper-class Lima: he attends social functions with his elegant wife, goes out drinking with his three best friends, has the occasional, fleeting assignation. . . . Until he meets Maria Fernandez, a dancer at a tango bar in a rough part of town. The beautiful sixteen-year-old intoxicates him. An indigenous dark-skinned Peruvian, she represents everything his safe white world does not, and soon he can’t get her out of his mind. They begin a passionate affair, one that will destroy his marriage and shatter the only reality he’s ever known.

Flash forward twenty years: against all odds, Carlos and Maria have remained together. But when Maria finally presses for a formal commitment, feelings long suppressed erupt in a tense endgame that sends both of them hurtling toward a dangerous resolution that will forever alter their lives.

Brilliantly realized, erotic, unsentimental, Lima Nights is a unique love story and a stunning work of fiction that will reverberate long after its final page.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"While the story ends with a whimper, the finely tuned human drama and subversion of the happily-ever-after drive home the setup's inherent sadness." - Publishers Weekly.

"A terse, almost stark departure from the lyrical Cellophane, this intelligent novel should bring new readers to Arana's work. Highly recommended for all academic and public library fiction collections." - Library Journal.

"Starred Review. ... Arana's novel of taboo passion, tragic misperception, and life's hidden dimensions is as shattering as it is seductive." - Booklist.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Jennifer
Disappointing
I had high expectations for this novel. It started out with interesting characters and an intriguing setting in Lima, but the storyline petered out along the way. I was also disappointed with the ending, as it seemed trite.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Jill
Beautifully detailed
Lima Nights draws you in with colorful descriptions of Peruvian nightlife and the excitement and eroticism of a new, forbidden relationship.
As author Maria Arana introduces Carlos and Maria and their extended friends and family to the reader, the story is artfully drawn; the emotions and circumstances compel empathy for the characters. Still, the relationship is complicated and at every chapter the reader weighs the decisions Carlos makes as the love affair grows—this is the best of the author’s gifts and would be fabulous fuel for a book club.

However, while beautifully detailed and empathetic at the start, Lima Nights, ultimately loses the crispness of the story telling as the novel draws to its close and rather than wanting more, the reader is simply relieved the story is over.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Tanya
Felt Like a Penny Novel
With a trip to Peru planned for the coming summer I was excited about the prospect of learning more about Lima and it's night life, however, I expected more from this book than it delivered. While the author paints a story rich in imagery and easy to envision, the characters are neglected and the reader is carried along on the age-old premise that Latin men continue to have families on the homefront while entertaining their sexual needs in the city. The idea becomes tiresome as four friends meet occasionally to lament their situation, without any real details for the reader.

A two part story, part one of the book is where we get to learn the most about what brings Carlos and Maria together. This part reads quickly and with a hint of promise. Yet part two quickly jumps 20 years into the future and we only get brief glimpses of what has become of Carlos and Maria during the 20 year span. In fact, it's hard to believe that their relationship even lasts that long, as dull as the story paints their situation to be. The promise of nightlife in Lima and an exotic love affair never came through and in the end the characters are superficial, never truly developed

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Stephanie
Lima Nights not very engaging
I really had to work to force myself to finish this book. It had some interesting and exciting parts, but overall, I was not engaged in the story. I did not find any of the characters likable and was not satisfied with the ending.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Wisteria Leigh
Lima Nights
Lima in 1986 is a pluralistic society of race, economics and social class. Carlos Bluhm, white, married and father of two sons, comes from money and lives in a mansion. Maria Fernandez, a marginalized member of the city is a Peruvian with dark-skin who lives in the slums. She struggles to survive by working two jobs. At night, Maria works in a tango bar, where she is hired to dance with the male customers. The salacious dance club is in a seedy section of the city and Carlos happens to be there one night when Maria is working. After meeting Maria he becomes obsessed with a monomaniac drive to be with her. He even goes so far as to make a comparative checklist to weigh pros and cons between Maria and his wife. The game begins as Carlos wonders what can he be thinking? In his mind he knows they are diametrically opposed in all ways.

My favorite character was Maria who demonstrated a vivacious spirit and tenacious will, with a personality full of contradictions; complex yet simple, young yet wise, childlike yet mature, poor yet rich.

This book had me flipping pages frantically expecting a great finish, as the author crafted increasing suspense. As the story ended, I felt like I ran into a brick wall. Lima Nights is a wonderful sensual love story depicting racial and class prejudice and society’s intolerance. Arana’s obsessive lovers, have an allure and chemistry that will steam glass with their passion.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Midwest Reader
I wanted to like it, but.......
Having read and really enjoyed Marie Arana's "Cellophane", I was looking forward to "Lima Nights". Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectations. I found the characters self-involved and rather pathetic. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of them, least of all the main character, Bluhm. Hopefully, Arana will get back on track with more plot-driven novels like "Cellophane".

...11 more reader reviews

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More Information

Marie Arana is the editor of the Washington Post Book World. Born in Lima, Peru, she now lives in Washington, D.C.

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