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The Pleasure Of Eliza Lynch: A Novel (2004)

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch: A Novel (2004)
3.1 of 5 Votes: 2
0802141196 (ISBN13: 9780802141194)
grove press
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The Pleasure Of Eliza Lynch: A Novel ...
The Pleasure Of Eliza Lynch: A Novel (2004)

About book: An amazing and as far as I know little-noted literary event took place in 2004. One element of the drama was the publication of Lilly Tuck’s national book award winner The News From Paraguay, an historical novel based on an obscure 19th Century South American military conflict between Paraguay and her neighbors--Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. I read News a couple of years ago and found it in every way deserving of its award. I even had an accidental lunch with Lilly Tuck at Sewanee, where I commented that I’d been disappointed that she was not teaching there that year, as I had led to believe. She told me I should be happy, that she was a terrible teacher. Not a terrible writer, though, and we all thought it a shame that only one of the five women nominated that year could win. The second element of the said 2004 event came into my consciousness in the last month. After I was inspired by my reading of last year’s Booker Prize winner, The Gathering, by Anne Enright. I went looking for more Enright and picked up Eliza Lynch. I’d forgotten the name of Tuck’s heroine, but I was only a couple of pages into the Eliza Lynch before I realized this was The News From Paraguay revisited. What are the odds of that? When I realized they were both published in the same year, I wondered even more about the odds. Why and how would two fine authors fall upon the same obscure story accidentally and independently and publish novels virtually simultaneously? I did a little googling, but still don’t know the answer. On the web page of an unlikely organization called The Institute of Latin Irish Studies I discovered that said Lynch was the subject of a widely published biography and that she has become sort of the Evita of Paraguay, a heroine in death as much as she was a disgraced and celebrated sybarite in life. However, that twin novels about her would emerge this way seems passing strange, but a good deal for such as I. So, what about Eliza, anyhow? She’s Irish, but both Enright and Tuck pick up her story in Paris with her meeting with Francisco Solano Lopez. Tuck has her meeting Lopez aboard a horse. Enright, in one of the best openings of a novel I’ve ever read, has Lopez aboard Lynch: Francisco Solano Lopez put his penis inside Eliza Lynch on a lovely spring day in Paris, in 1874. They were in a house on the rue St.-Sulpice, an ancient street down which people have always strolled in a state of pleasant imagining. In he spring of 1854, no imagination was needed as Francisco Solano Loperz pushed his penis into Eliza Lynch and pulled it back again, twenty times in all. We then get a countdown of Lopez’s strokes and a rather complete account of the events and feelings of Eliza’s life from birth to the present as each thrust inspires another memory and emotion. Utterly masterful--breathtaking, really--writing. The rest of the book is similarly magical as we follow Eliza to South America, through her simultaneous rise and disgrace (Lopez’s family refuses to accept her.) as the powerful courtesan of Paraguay’s megalomanic, possibly insane, dictator. We see her situation through her own eyes as well as those of others, particularly a Scottish alcoholic Dr. Stewart, who is both infatuated and repelled by her. What we see is an ambitious, sensual, and sensitive woman. A woman with a lust for beauty, flesh, power, and affection, one with whom we greatly sympathize because she is such an outcast and because she acts out of a sort of innocent immorality. I know that’s an oxymoron, but that’s who she is. When Lopez’s war fails, she leaves the country with great wealth and returns to Paris. Lilly Tuck follows her there and into the penury that surrounds her unto her death in 1886 at the age of 51. Enright, instead, chooses to follow Dr. Stewart to Scotland, where he lives with the Paraguayan maid he has married. The last sight we have of Enright’s Lynch is a glimpse as she climbs the steps of a courthouse, where her suit to seize some of Stewart’s property is about to be heard. Tuck follows her life’s collapse, Enright leaves us with an image of her as a warrior. Lynch was obviously a woman with beauty and power to spare. More important to me at this moment, is that her beauty and power have inspired two such terrific books. Tuck’s and Enright’s writing goes beyond craftmanship into the realm of high literary art. It would be wonderful to have read both books in tandem, but a real treat to have read them both at all. Viva la coincidence.

Unrecognisable from Ms Enright's other works, this is written very much in the dreamlike style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.The chronology is fluid: the account of Irishwoman Eliza Lynch's journey into Paraguay, in the company of her lover, Francisco Solano Lopez - son and heir to the dictator - is interspersed with other chapters from later in her career, most notably the War of the Triple Alliance, with its massive casualties.Although parts of the narrative are in Eliza's own words, she remained quite an enigma. Was she worthy of the scorn poured upon her by the Paraguayan ladies as an 'Irish whore'? Was she as responsible as her fearsome husband (who was prone to killing his own men) for the bloodshed? Or a brave and noble woman?A much clearer character was Doctor Stewart, physician to the family and sometime narrator.Ms Enright notes that this is all fiction: 'this Is Not True', and I see another reviewer more knowledgable about Eliza Lynch finds fault with the novel for the spin she has put on Lynch. I would say that as someone with absolutely no prior knowledge of Paraguayan history, this work has massively stirred my interest in the subject, and I plan to read a biography of this lady sometime.
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is not the only book I have read about Lopez and Eliza Lynch, as I read The News from Paraguay three years ago, but it was picked for a book club I am in, so I read it! This one is a little less literary in tone, with some explicit but not steamy (or romantic) sex, lush depictions of Eliza's jungle-inappropriate wardrobe, and pretty decent use of Paraguayan language and history.Something about the grammar - there are some awkward sentences and a few just plain errors. I'm not sure how that happens, lack of editing?I'm just amazing that this person really existed! While Lily Tuck portrayed her more as a fish out of water, Enright shows her as a force to be reckoned with. Someone who would willingly waste copious amounts of money to prove a point, and not flinch at incredible violence directed by her lover."It amazes me, the power men have. How we make way for their desire."
This book has one of the naughtiest openings I have ever read, and a first chapter that would make a grown man blush. It is fantastically risque but it is not erotica, it is fun, it is dark, it is emotional - it is a journey across seas into another world where anything and everything can and does happen.Eliza Lynch was the mistress to the dictator of Paraguay, this is a fictional tale based on real events. Enright wrote that the many "biographies" written about Eliza Lynch are so fictitious, that her novel is probably more biographical that those tales.The story is risque so I wouldn't go buying it for children, your granny, or anyone with strong religious views. But for the rest of you that like a little bit of adventure it is well worth a read
Well now this was an interesting book. I was a little underwhelmed by the size of it at first - but this slim volume packed a much bigger punch than many of the 400-odd page blah fiction I've been powering through recently.This book is less a story, more like being handed a bundle of postcards from a person that are not in order and about half are missing. The chapters are brief glimpses into the story, and at various points in the timeline.This makes it all sound incredibly cerebral - but I loved the character of Eliza from the first chapter, gradually falling out of love with her as the parts narrated by others, such as the doctor, progressed. Likewise the opening was very sexy, but that all cooled over the course of the story - much like the intensity of a love affair gradually waning.I also have to confess to not really knowing much about the real Eliza Lynch, Lopez and the wars in Paraguay. This is one of the first books in a while where I had to look a few things up (on things like Wikipedia.)I highly recommend just briefly familiarising oneself with the events of the novel, as there is almost no exposition about the historical events - but likewise the characters themselves are perhaps not self-aware enough to pick up in the narration that we are dealing with a South American dictator - to the main characters (and therefore to the reader) it's just about a couple who fight and he comes from an important family. So I recommend this book - because I really enjoy books that make you think and fill in gaps - however at times I was a little too tired some nights to play the game of re-reading passages just to try and work out what is happening (and being in the final weeks of pregnancy the passages about Eliza's discomfort during pregnancy were a little too vividly realised). But this is well worth working through the system.
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