Book Review: Pearl Lagoon
This is a novel about Nicaragua by NL member Eric Timar. We previously met Eric from his book Tooth Man. See http://www.nicaliving.com/node/18430 for my review. That book was a collection of short stories whereas this book is a novel.
First, let me address why I feel a novel makes sense/will be of interest to those who want to learn more about Nicaragua. The book is not fiction in the way someone comes up with an idea and just creates the story. This is a novel about real happenings. If that doesn't make sense, think Gioconda Belli. She writes novels about Nicaragua which are heavily based in fact.
The setting for this novel is the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua from Bluefields to Pearl Lagoon. It is preported to be written by an American in 1937 about a Nicaraguan named Dorette Fox in 1926. Here is what you will find on the back cover of the book. It will tell you a lot about what is to follow.
The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in 1926 hosts so many citiens of the United States that baseball is the local pastime and Marines land regularly to protect lives and property. English is the dominant language, a legacy of British rule. U.S. fruit plantations, timber companies, and gold mines attract Americans as both managers and laborers.
When a stunning local woman named Dorette Fox entangles herself with two Americans, the desultory love triange combined with an escalating civil war results in murder. Cordell Fletcher, a young U.S. consular officer sent north from Bluefields to investigate the death, finds that the shooting is not over.
That tells you want you will be reading about. The story itself is interesting and a good read. There is no reason a typical novel reader is not going to enjoy it even if they have no real connection with Nicraragua.
For us, however, the story tells us a lot about the pre-Somoza years of Nicaragua from an area that is typically ignored. We can find lots of information about the Liberal and Conservative politics of León and Granada and happenings in Manauga. We also find a lot of information about North Central Nicaragua because of Sandino's presence. But, the Caribbean seems to never be part of the story.
Well, this book fills in some historical information for that region. You will learn about what it was like to live there almost a century ago. That includes local cultural issues as well as how the León/Granada politics fit into the picture and, of course, what the U.S. was and was not doing.
If you like historical novels, it's a good read. If you want to get the feel for Pearl Lagoon almost a century ago, even better.