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Skármeta (The Postman) conjures in his impressive sixth book a contemporary Santiago, Chile, where the memory of Pinochet's reign and the "disappearing" of citizens still looms. Presidential amnesty has granted freedom to some nonviolent criminals, releasing 20-year-old Ángel Santiago, a passionate young man imprisoned for impulsively stealing a wealthy rancher's horse, and 60-year-old "Nico" Vergara Grey, a gentleman-thief who has repented his life of crime. Ángel plans a grand heist and some payback, butut Ángel's heist is dependent on Nico, who wants only to be taken back by his estranged wife and son. Looming in the background is the warden who allowed inmates to rape and torture Ángel. Fearing (correctly) that Ángel will want revenge, the warden hires an assassin to kill him. Intertwined is Ángel's meeting with Victoria Ponce, a ballet student who wants to compose a dance to commemorate her dead father, a resistance member murdered by Pinochet's goons. Ángel helps Victoria move toward realizing her dream, and Nico eventually agrees to help with the heist, but with the assassin on his trail, Ángel may not be so lucky. Surprising jolts of humor flash throughout this powerful, humane novel. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Known for his canny knack for combining the elements of love, national crisis, and humor, SkArmeta, Chile's former ambassador to Germany, is also the author of the novel on which the highly popular movie Il Postinowas based. Now that Chile has returned to democracy after its traumatic years of dictatorship, the president extends amnesty to all nonviolent criminals in the nation's overcrowded prisons. Among them are a charismatic young horse thief named Angel Santiago and the master bank robber NicolAs Vergara Grey. Almost as soon as Angel leaves prison, he meets a talented dancer named Victoria Ponce, who desperately needs cash to finance her lessons, and he hatches the plan for a breathtaking bank heist if only he can enlist the aid of NicolAs, who also happens to need cash to rekindle the flames of his marriage to the beautiful Teresa Capriatti. Because Angel is a skilled horseman, an escape on horseback over the Andes to Buenos Aires for Angel, NicolAs, and Victoria seems like the perfect getaway. Warm, witty, and universal, this novel by veteran and prize-winning novelist SkArmeta is an absorbing page-turner. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/07.]
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Posted November 15, 2009
This novel begins with the release of some criminals due to an amensty declared in Chile by the president. Over the next few pages, we are introduced to the main characters, Ángel Santiago, who is the thief in the title, Nicolas Vergara Grey and Victoria Ponce, the dancer. We are also introduced to assorted other villains working on both sides of the law along with other characters needed to carry out a warm story. I found that Skármeta creates a story that flows and is very believable, almost leading the reader to anticipate various turns in the tale. His developement of his characters works well, fitting in with where he takes the reader.
Once out of prison, Ángel seeks out Vergara Grey with a plan that Ángel got from another prisoner before his release. Much of the story deals with the interaction of the novice Ángel, who was imprisoned for borrowing a horse, as he attempts to convince Vergara Grey to take part in one more caper. Ángel's reasoning is clear - what other jobs will they be able to find.
Ángel's interaction with Victoria is a love story. I believe that Skármeta leaves plenty of clues that Victoria is not what Ángel believes. Still, love drives Ángel in how he deals with Victoria.
This story was a very easy read. The characters are interesting and well developed. The story stays interesting through the last page.