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 Asunción, 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 Guaraní 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 García Márquez 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.
Winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction
The Washington Post - Joanne Omang,
Tuck's style in these early pages is as effective and swift as in her earlier and most successful novel, Siam....But one keeps waiting for the moment when Ella will become an appealing human being, or when Franco will reveal the charisma he must have had, or when his sisters will emerge from their fat-slob stereotypes to become real people....Perhaps this frustrating approach is meant to evoke the disjointed nature of human experience, the measuring out of lives in coffee spoons, the inadequacy of memory, the sheer coquetry of chance and life and death, etc. If so, it is certainly just as frustrating as real life can be -- for example, when one is hoping to sit down with a vivid story and learn a little something about how to be a full human being while yet surviving during violent and turbulent times.
Los Angeles Times
Decorous detail and vivid imagery.
Compelling…the stuff that good fiction is made of complex characters and an intricate narrative.
The world [Tuck] creates is exotic, vivid and relevant for anyone concerned about the abuses of power, corruption and generation-long consequences of devastating wars.
The New Yorker
Tuck’s historical novel of nineteenth-century Paraguay is told largely through (and sometimes in the voice of) Ella Lynch, a blond, fair-skinned Irishwoman who, while a courtesan in Paris, met Francisco Solano Lopez, the son of Paraguay’s dictator. She became his mistress and, after Lopez (known as Franco) succeeded his father, she was the most powerful woman in the country. As an Irishwoman in Paraguay, Tuck’s Ella is an outsider. But so, in a way, is Franco, a megalomaniac who builds a theatre modelled on La Scala and wages a disastrous war against Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Paraguay’s malarial swamps and faux-European high society are the perfect setting for Tuck’s dark wit, and her novel is quickened by such details as Ella’s pink marble palace and her son’s necklace made from the ears of enemy soldiers on a rawhide string.
New York Times Book Review
Tuck’s prose is elegant, the subject well researched.
Los Angeles Times
Elegant …Reading The News From Paraguay feels like looking into a crystal ball seeing pieces of a garden, storm clouds building, lives passing...
San Francisco Chronicle
Highly engaging…charming and beguiling…. Like a slowly opening fan whose slates reveal themselves one by one, so do the many stories within The News from Paraguay.
Paraguay materializes as Tuck’s characters do, imperceptibly, until the sounds, smells and colors of the country saturate the pages …a tense elegant novel.
Brad Hooper, Booklist
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.
Tuck's novel may not be for the faint of heart, but it is a rich and rewarding read.
Library Journal - Beth E Anderson
A gripping read, this is recommended for readers who have strong stomachs and no need for sympathetic protagonists.
Starred review. A splendid realization of its rich subject, and Tuck's best so far.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
I lived in Paraguay for a year as an exchange student. The period of the 1800s, from the xenophobic dictator Dr. Francia through the Lopez father and son presidencies and the attempt at empire that resulted in the War of the Triple Alliance... Read More
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