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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.
Lima Nights draws you in with colorful descriptions of Peruvian nightlife and the excitement and eroticism of a new, forbidden relationship.
Felt Like a Penny Novel
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 growsthis is the best of the authors 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.
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.
Lima Nights not very engaging
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
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.
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.
I wanted to like it, but.......
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 societys intolerance. Aranas obsessive lovers, have an allure and chemistry that will steam glass with their passion.
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".
Lima Nights by Marie Arana
A sensory narrative about a love-affair and its impact on friends and family, this book submerges the reader in color, aroma, heat and light. It's tropical heat at every level. I felt like I was back in Lima myself, wandering among colonial houses reeking of past wealth, jungle scents, and Latin spices.
Feverish to flagging
I started reading this book when I had a cold and was slightly feverish. Lima Nights was an appropriate choice as the pace in the first part of the novel is also slightly feverish. I found myself appalled and attracted to Bluhm, the older husband who sees Maria at the bar/dance club called Lima Nights one evening. They dance the tango and she slips a note into his jacket pocket. Later, he sees her working at the grocery store and becomes obsessed with her despite the fact that she is only 13, younger than his youngest son. So begins their attraction and relationship. I didn't like him for cheating on his wife. I didn't like him for pursuing a relationship with a poor young girl. I didn't like Maria, though I did not blame her for trying to better her situation. And yet, I couldn't put the book down.
The second section, which takes place 20 years into their relationship, is more slow-paced. We don't know the characters well, as mirrored in the fact that they don't know one another despite having been together for 20 years under the same roof. Bluhm has let his family go for Maria while Maria clings to a false sense of security that living under Bluhm's roof seems to provide. The mix of fighting, voodoo and even some psychotherapy is still not a substitute for the shallow character development, which is ultimately the authors point. The characters are as stagnant as their relationship.
The first half of the book was much more interesting, albeit disturbing, than the second half. Regardless of the flaws, the story was still compelling enough to finish. I wanted to know how it all worked out, though seemingly there couldn't be a happy union between "a chicken and a goose", two very different characters who had only a tenuous love and flagging sexual desire to keep them together.