Rating: 4 out of 5
I took this up as I have had an increased interest in South America since my visit to Peru last year. Colombia, a largely unknown country with its set of troubles, seemed therefore a good next step to continue my South American investigation. Overall, I found Mr Young’s portrayal of the country and its issues in the midst of a long civil war compelling.
However, that does not mean I am only in favour of this book. I think that the main problem — if the main benefit for an European reader is the breath of coverage and the inherently human-centric way the conflict is explained — is that the author tried to pack too much into one book. I was quite quickly bored of the main character whose motto of ‘revenge’ is rather dull. The supporting act is relatively good, but also does not inspire, and it was mostly my interest in the country that kept me reading.
The problem with the story — a young guy who is first and foremost centered on avenging the death of his father — is that it is such an overused plotline. The main character was especially annoying as he constantly kept falling into the same holes. However, I don’t doubt that the author condensed the opinions of many of the guerrillas he talked to into this one viewpoint.
And, because of the author’s interviews, I do think the reader gets an invaluable look into Colombia. By the end, nearly all sides are portrayed in a grey light and the reader’s understanding of the conflict is enhanced. In short, the story and the prose are not amazing, merely passable, but one wouldn’t be reading this book for the prose in any case.
Disclaimer: I received the book free from the publisher for a review.