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A Storm Hits Valparaíso is an epic, historical adventure starring two brothers torn apart by love; a slave running for his life; a disgraced ...
A Storm Hits Valparaíso is an epic, historical adventure starring two brothers torn apart by love; a slave running for his life; a disgraced British sailor seeking redemption; and José de San Martín, an Argentine general who deserts the Spanish Army to lead a bloody revolt against his former masters.
Posted September 13, 2012
A historical fiction that brings to light some of the leaders in the independence movements in South America. This is my introduction to men such as San Martin and Cochrane who were commanders in the struggles of Argentina, Chile, and Peru in winning their independence from Spain. From reading this book I learned what drove some of the leaders to give up everything to join the revolutions in South America.
The story of A Storm Hits Valparaiso involves not only the leaders and men in the history books, but also the people who were being directly affected by the changes that were coming about in their lives. Stories from the point of view of two cousins who were raised as brothers, a runaway slave, and the daughter of a bar owner all bring in the "little people" of the revolution. It is these stories that bring the revolutions down to the people that were truly being affected by what the leaders were doing.
A very good read and one that opens new history for those that want to explore the growth of independence movements.
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Posted February 6, 2012
I have a lot of respect for David Gaughran. I read his blog daily and his non fiction work Let’s Get Digital manages to be both inspiring and of practical use so when I saw the chance to get a review copy of his first novel, A Storm Hits Valparaiso I jumped at it, not lease because I saw it as a way of repaying a little bit of what I’ve gotten from David over the past several months.
A Storm Hits Valparaiso is an epic story of love, hate, brotherhood, power, revenge, and the thirst for independence told from the points of view of a variety of people in positions both high and low. For the sake of perspective, Historical Fiction is not a genre I read a lot and I have no particular interest in South America. My home genre is Epic Fantasy though, so I am fully ready to accept a story that spans a continent where what’s at stake is the lives of every single person on the continent.
I wanted to love this book and I ended up just liking it.
Why did I like it?
Well, it has a little bit of everything it claims. There is love, of both the romantic and brotherly varieties. There is the simple struggle for survival of individuals juxtaposed against the larger struggle for the survival of a people with a regional identity. There is the desire of individual slaves to be free smacked right up next to the desire of a nation of people desiring to be free of a colonial power half a world away. In short, it has everything you would want in an epic.
Why then, didn’t I love it?
There are two things I would point to but I think they both stem from one overriding factor. The story is too big for the book. I come from a world of Epic Fantasy where doorstopper novels are, if not quite the norm, well within the normal range. A Storm Hits Valparaiso comes in at a bit less than a hundred thousand words which is fairly normal for a novel. But this isn’t a normal novel. We don’t have a main plot with a few sub plots. Gaughran is trying to tell us a real story from real history and if you haven’t noticed, real life is far more complex than your average novel.
To get into the specifics, I think A Storm Hits Valparaiso has two significant flaws.
One is characterization. It is spotty at best. There are, I think, two characters who are decently written though even there, we should have had more. In other cases, including what should have been one of the more emotional subplots there wasn’t enough characterization to make me actually care about the character. If I don’t care about them I don’t care about what happens to them and they—and the novel—lose all the dramatic tension they should have.
The other problem—and it’s related—is a showing/telling problem. There are a lot of places where Gaughran tells us something instead of showing us something and the story suffers as a result.
For example, there are two brothers, Jorge and Diego who get separated for a long time. When they get back together they find things aren’t quite like they were before and they end up growing apart. Gaughran tells us this and gives us a scene or two to illustrate. It should have been the reverse. Give us nine scenes where we can see that things are different and just a few lines where one of them recognizes the differences.
All in all, if you like historical fiction and/or have a particular affection for South America, I think you’ll really enjoy this story.
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Posted October 19, 2014
Wonderfully researched details coupled with imagination add sparkle and authenticity to this historical novel.
The first several chapters introduce characters and take the reader into the days right before the revolution. At first I wondered if I would be able to keep these characters straight, but there was no problem with that, as each character is unique, with his or her own personality and goals. All come from different walks of life: a runaway slave, an English lord and sea captain, a tavern-keeper’s daughter, an unwanted orphan and his brother, and of course General José de San Martín, a brilliant strategist, born in Argentina and a defector from the Spanish army. Gaughran’s story makes it easy to understand why San Martín is regarded as a national hero of Argentina and Peru.
I was particularly fascinated by Thomas Cochrane, in whom I found a character I could wholly root for, as the popular underdog fighting the establishment.
While much of the story is centered around freeing South America from Spain and thus involves military machinations to that end, Gaughran also takes the reader into the intimate lives of his protagonists. Each is expertly fleshed out, with fears, hopes, love and suffering. I appreciated this aspect of A Storm Hits Valparaiso. Every chapter deepens the reader’s engagement. I became particularly synced to the triangle of Catalina, Jorge, and Diego.
The fighting scenes are vivid and brutal, the military planning intriguing, the work and commitment involved in the freeing of a country fascinating, the love stories poignant. I was not familiar with this history, and was intrigued enough to get online and do some reading. Thomas Cochrane, for instance, is called “The ‘real’ Master and Commander.”
Reading this book left me pondering why countries invade other countries and subjugate them. It’s inevitable that somewhere, sometime, those suppressed people will rise up in revolt and fight for their freedom. Conquering armies can never take a truly easy breath. Eventually, they will have to fight to keep what they've taken, again, and again, until at some point, they lose or give up, and many have to die on both sides. Yet history never seems able to impart this lesson, and new, would-be conquerors continue to attempt their overthrows.
Highly recommended historical fiction. It really captured my imagination.
Posted November 27, 2013
Posted November 22, 2013