I had no idea what to expect from this novella, which is the very best way to approach a ghost story. I’ll say no more about the book itself, except that I really enjoyed the experience. It all surprised me in quite a few ways, including the author himself. Very satisfying!
Guyana has been one of those places that I only knew the lightest outlines of, and it’s been a real pleasure to gain a bit more knowledge. Both books I’ve read have been deeply engaging, and both authors that I’ve been introduced to have deep catalogs of work to explore, and personal stories that rival their fiction. Thank you, Guyana!
I don’t check out reviews before I read a book, but am always curious afterwards if other people had a similar experience as I did. With this novel, that’s a confident Yes; everybody landed on that same word that kept flashing up for me.
A bit of magical realism, jungle and savannah and rivers and a city carrying as much weight as any major character, the past and the present, far-away and home and who we are when we are in those places, a trickster God as the narrator (or is he?), …so many elements that could have gone wrong, but didn’t. The Ventriloquist’s Tale is my first time meeting the work of the author, Pauline Melville, but it won’t be my last. She alone is fascinating, and her work is masterful.
I’ve been at this blog for a very long time now, and yet Guyana will be just my second South American country. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be visiting! Especially since I know very little about Guyana; this will be a true learning experience. Knowledge is good! South America is even better!
(Edit: I’ve also tagged Guyana as a Caribbean country. The more I read, I learned that it’s part of CARICOM, the Caribbean single-market organization, and is more culturally tied to that part of the world, versus the continent on which it exists. Super cool!)
Map of Guyana (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Location of Guyana (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Flag of (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Short stories are, by their very nature, intense. No build-up, no long story arcs; you’re thrown into a slice of life and need to process it all on the fly. It’s a story-telling form that is not often my first choice as a reader, but Bolivia forced me out of my comfort zone. The book I chose for my first South American destination is a collection of short stories, The Fat Man from La Paz: Contemporary Fiction from Bolivia.
I’ll come right out with it and say that some of the selections made me uncomfortable. I seriously disliked a few of the characters I met, and was unsure at first of how to review the book as a whole. After thinking, and talking, about it for a few days, I realized that discomfort was something to pay attention to. It made me realize just how universally GOOD the writers are that were included in this compilation; every story managed to affect me on a pretty deep level. Rural life versus urban life, gender issues, corruption, war, family dramas…all are pretty universal topics, but I’m grateful for the chance to catch a glimpse of a uniquely Bolivian perspective.