Monday, April 09, 2007

Book Review: Delirium by Laura Restrepo

Maya Muir reviews Laura Restrepo's Delirium.

Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo's new book, "Delirium," poses as a mystery: Why has Bogota beauty Augustina Londono gone mad, and how did she come to be found delirious in a room at the Wellington Hotel?

The answers unfold within four fractured narratives of three generations of the Londono family and the people around them. Clever revelations, withheld to the final pages, provide answers. But Augustina, the reader discovers, has always been a little unhinged like her grandfather before her, and the mystery adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Also Augustina's delirium simply -- but conveniently -- fades without much reason at the story's end.

The more-interesting delirium Restrepo delineates is the drug-corrupted society of 21st-century Colombia. A character describes Bogota as "this city where everyone's at war with everyone else." Random bombings and kidnappings occur daily; the countryside is punctuated by zones so dangerous that the military withdraws by midafternoon each day; and the social elite have become eager puppets of the drug lords.

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