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Perla by Carolina De Robertis
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A really lovely book, beautifully written and unsparing in its account of the desaparecidos. Genuinely moving. ( )
  meredk | Sep 19, 2014 |
De Robertis’s second novel (after The Invisible Mountain, 2009) tackles head-on the lingering traumas left behind by Argentina’s state-sponsored regime of terror during the 1970s and ‘80s. In the opening pages, 22-year-old college student Perla, left home alone by vacationing parents, finds a naked man in her living room. He is dripping wet, smelling of rotting fish and seawater, and she can find no possible way he could have entered the home. Oddly, she is unafraid, though she knows perhaps she should be. As the rest of the novel unfolds, Perla and the naked man both reflect on their lives up to this point. Perla’s father, a man she loves with all the loyalty an only daughter can muster, is also a Naval officer and thus, one of the men responsible for the kidnappings and torture Argentina’s government perpetrated against its own citizens. She knows she should hate him, but cannot quite bring herself to do so. Her lover, an investigative journalist, has recently broached to her the idea that she herself was stolen as an infant from one of los desaparecidos¬—the disappeared. Rejecting the idea, she fled his arms and retreated home—only to be confronted by the naked wet man. That man, meanwhile, is finding his own memories returned to him slowly. In life, he was himself one of los desaparecidos, taken from his pregnant young wife and tortured mercilessly before being thrown from a plane into the ocean along with countless others. Why he has returned from the waters now, and why he has arrived in this home with this young woman, is something they must discover together.

With Perla, De Robertis has fully embraced the tradition of magical realism so representative of Central and South American literature. Lyrical even when describing the most horrific of torments endured by los desaparecidos, De Robertis’s novel is powerful and affecting in its clear-eyed examination of the lasting impacts of the dictatorship upon both the victims and also the perpetrators of its many horrors. ( )
  kmaziarz | Jun 23, 2012 |
After devouring Carolina De Robertis’ first novel, “The Invisible Mountain,” I had high hopes for “Perla.” I was not let down. De Robertis is a gifted storyteller whose words flow gracefully and effortlessly; the writing itself is so beautiful that even if she wrote about nothing at all I still think it would be riveting.

But, in addition to splendid writing, there is a richly fascinating story here, centered on the far-reaching ramifications of the “disappearances” of thousands of Argentinian citizens who were taken by the state, tortured and then, simply, vanished. The title character is the daughter of a naval officer who played a role in the crime; Perla lives a divided life as she hides the shameful secret held by her family.

A lovely blend of mystery, history, romance, and magical realism, this gorgeously rendered tale sheds light on horrifying brutalities and their ripple effects through the generations. In places drily humorous, and in others so gut-wrenching it moves you to tears, this is a novel that should not be missed, by an author who just gets better and better. ( )
  Litfan | May 29, 2012 |
I wrote in one GoodReads status update that this book "has everything I love in it -- politics, dreamy narrative, violence wrought more prettily than love, complicated characters, deceptive simplicity..."

Set in 2001 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the story follows Perla, a college student who discovers a water-logged specter in her living room. The man is one of the victims of Argentina's war against dissidents and critics, cruelly tortured before his horrible murder.

Perla, now in her early 20s, is coming to grips with the fact that her beloved father, a Naval officer, was likely involved with the dictatorship's decision to torture and kill thousands of people in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The heavy weight of this knowledge, the conflicting feelings she has for her father -- love, shame, adoration, horror -- and her desire to be loved fully for who she is shapes the arc of this story as Perla struggles to embrace fully the truth of who she is.

De Robertis' writing style is fantastic: not only is her narrative very poetic, a little dreamy, and a joy to read, she tells the story in a very give-and-take fashion. The discomfort, horror, and sadness would build until I'd think I couldn't read another page, then De Robertis would back off a little, shift the focus, change the narrative path just a hint, and I'd have some relief. She didn't soften or back pedal, she just gave me some time to be tense and some time to absorb, and that made me race through this book rather than take it slow and cautious. I was particularly taken with De Robertis' articulation of Perla's parents -- they were both familiar and distant, the way a child would view them as she grows into adulthood -- and I found Perla's response to them to be realistic and authentic.

I don't think one needs to be familiar with Argentinian history to appreciate this story; De Robertis offers enough context to understand Perla's turmoil. This is a story about having an adult relationship with one's parents; about acknowledging the secrets in a family that are both accepted and hidden; about restitution and revenge; and ultimately, forgiveness. ( )
  unabridgedchick | May 25, 2012 |
Carolina De Robertis has created a fantastic drama of finding oneself, and life during a terrible time. I chose to review this book because of Perla's father.....he was a Navy man, and so was my father, so I love reading books that involve the Navy, for it brings me back to my childhood.

Born in 1981, two years before the "Dirty War" ended, I never really knew of or heard about the Dirty War before now. But, that did not stop me from falling in love with this story. Perla's father was a Navy Officer, one she is learning was involved in the "disappearance" of many people. A man that was responsible for killing so many civilians and ruining families.

When this book started out, I was honestly not sure what to expect, for Perla has found a man in her living room and he's dripping wet, as if he just came out of the water. He's not just any many though. He's a ghost and one that will change her life forever. When this man appears, Perla begins digging deeper into the events of the Dirty War and the disappearances. What she finds is not at all what she was expecting. What she finds is something more life changing than anything could ever be.

I definitely recommend this book with the highest of 5 Books. It's worthy of so much more, but that's the highest I can rate it. I fell in love with the entirety of this story, from Perla to her Naval Officer father (yes, though he was involved with murder, he was a big defining aspect of the story.....). This story gripped me so thoroughly, and held me til the last page, that by the end, I was heartbroken. I didn't want to let Perla go, and I wanted to hang on to the author's writing for just a little bit longer. A perfect combination of truth, suspense, forgiveness and finding oneself, this book is absolutely mind-blowing! I can tell you that this a book that will be forever on my bookshelf to turn to again and again. Well done, Ms. De Robertis, and I can't wait for another fantastically written novel from you! ( )
  ReviewsbyMolly | May 23, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
In an artful blend of beauty and horror, De Robertis has made the disappeared visible once again. With that, she has done them - and us - a great service.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...
 
This ambitious narrative, largely told in flashbacks, is propulsive and emotionally gripping. De Robertis’s lyrical flights are grounded in the fulfillment of the most desperate wishes of disappeared parents and their children, culminating in a wrenching catharsis about rebirth and healing.
 
An elegantly written and affecting meditation on life in the wake of atrocity.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307599590, Hardcover)

A coming-of-age story, based on a recent shocking chapter of Argentine history, about a young woman who makes a devastating discovery about her origins with the help of an enigmatic houseguest.
 
Perla Correa grew up a privileged only child in Buenos Aires, with a cold, polished mother and a straitlaced naval officer father, whose profession she learned early on not to disclose in a country still reeling from the abuses perpetrated by the deposed military dictatorship. Perla understands that her parents were on the wrong side of the conflict, but her love for her papá is unconditional. But when Perla is startled by an uninvited visitor, she begins a journey that will force her to confront the unease she has suppressed all her life, and to make a wrenching decision about who she is, and who she will become.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:15 -0400)

Set in Buenos Aires, "Perla" is a coming-of-age story, based on a recent shocking chapter of Argentine history, about a young woman who makes a devastating discovery about her origins with the help of an enigmatic houseguest.

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