Summary and book reviews of The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Sound of Things Falling

By Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Sound of Things Falling
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2013,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2014,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America's greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar's Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia's streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend's murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend's family have been shaped by his country's recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

Vásquez is "one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature," according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing - and will take his literary star - even higher.

One Single Long Shadow

The first hippopotamus, a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half, was shot dead in the middle of 2009. He'd escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar's old zoo in the Magdalena valley, and in that time of freedom had destroyed crops, invaded drinking troughs, terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch. The marksmen who caught up with him shot him once in the head and again in the heart (with .375 calibre bullets, since hippopotamus skin is thick); they posed with the dead body, the great dark, wrinkled mass, a recently fallen meteorite; and there, in front of the first cameras and onlookers, beneath a ceiba tree that protected them from the harsh sun, explained that the weight of the animal would prevent them from transporting him whole, and they immediately began carving him up. I was in my apartment in Bogotá, two hundred and fifty or so kilometres south, when I saw the image for the first ...

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Reviews

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Through the book, Vasquez wanted to “show how the drug trade affects somebody not involved in it, somebody who – like me – has never seen a gramme of coke in his life.” That is precisely what he achieves so eloquently in Falling. Antonio finds his life “molded by distant events” and the attendant feeling of disillusionment feels heartbreakingly real. The players caught up in the drug wars were not innocent, they were innocents. Vasquez writes, “I’m not sure you realize what a distance there is between the two concepts.” Thanks to this moving novel, we now do.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (1189 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 'That story is to blame,' declares a character in Colombian author Vasquez's latest novel (after The Secret History of Costaguana). Indeed, this book is an exploration of the ways in which stories profoundly impact lives.

Library Journal

Starred Review. The compelling Vasquez strikes comparisons that hold up even in translation. Readers expecting a thrilling reenactment ofthe Colombian drug wars ofthe 1990s should look elsewhere, but those seeking a more genuine and magnificently written examination of memory's persistence will be satisfied.

Booklist

Starred Review. As readers join Antonio and Maya in listening intently to the black-box recording from that plane, they will marvel at how Vásquez fuses past and present, hope and despair, in one unforgettable moment. A deft translation delivers the searing trauma and the tender intimations of a masterpiece.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Toward the end of the novel, Yammara comments that Maya wrinkles her brow "like someone who's on the verge of understanding something," and this ambiguous borderland where things don't quite come into coherent focus is where most of the characters remain.

Amazon Book of the Month

The Sound of Things Falling does so much at once: it’s a novel about how the U.S. dangerously influences Latin America, how the present never escapes the past, and how fragile our relationships--romantic and familial--can be.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

The Sound of Things Falling
There was just something about this book that was stylistically perfect. One of the most well constructed books I have ever read. The title is also perfect because things in this novel fall, airplanes fall, drug empires fall, an old zoo and estate ...   Read More

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Pablo Escobar and His Excesses

Pablo EscobarIf one of the first things that comes to mind when someone says the word "Colombia," is "drugs," that fault lies squarely on the shoulders of notorious drug mobster, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. Born in 1949 to a school teacher and a farmer, Pablo Escobar grew up in the suburbs of Medellin (pronunciation) and turned to a life of crime early on. He was believed to have sandblasted tombstones for resale and committed a number of petty crimes before turning to drugs in the '70s. Escobar and his vast empire were the conduit for massive amounts of cocaine smuggled to North America. In the mid '70s it is believed that Escobar ordered the killing of a rival Medellin drug lord, Fabio Restrepo and with this one decisive move, Escobar cemented his ...

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