Childhood is the age of discovery. Some kids fall in love with horses, some with dolls, others toy cars or butterfly collections. But Victor Sobrevilla Paniagua, in Marie Arana's captivating new novel, Cellophane, isn't like other little girls and boys.
"He had always wanted to be an engineer," Arana writes, "a builder of mills, a virtuoso of machinery, a maestro of paper."
Victor grows up in Lima, Peru, at the end of the 19th century. To make his dreams of paper production come true, he sets off along a branch of the Amazon in search of a factory site. He is accompanied by his beautiful wife, Doa Mariana. Don Victor is drawn deeper and deeper not only into his quest to bring modern industry to the wild rain forest but also into an involvement with the supernatural beliefs of the tribes who live there.
Arana's writing is influenced by the magic realism of Latin American fiction, so that even Don Victor's manufacture of boring brown paper has an element of witchcraft to it. And when he sets his sights on the translucent, shimmering new invention cellophane, all sorts of strange things start to happen.
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