I have to be honest. I really didn’t like this book. My first memory of it was from an English professor at Sauk Valley College, circa 1978 gushing over how unbelievably good it was. I resolved to read it someday, and after hearing repeated reverential praises for this masterful moving book, I finally got around to starting it about two years ago. I read perhaps 30 pages and thought, “Jesus, this is a piece of shit. Maybe I’m just not in the right mood.” So two years later, I figure I must not have given it a fair chance and maybe it’s one of those books you have to read all the way through before you really know what it’s about. Well, that much is true, but also, even at the last sentence, I found myself with this uncomfortable “Birdman” emperor’s naked feeling. Maybe you have to be well grounded in the history of Colombia to appreciate the book. Maybe you have to be smarter than I am, which I acknowledge is not that high a bar. But I could not get it. The book wanders in and out of reality so that you never quite know when it’s a dream sequence, a fantasy or true reality. The characters – many of whom share the same names with other major characters – are either unlikable or uninteresting and keeping them straight is something of a constant chore. The prose was universally bland and dry. I love literature. I had a hard time finding it in this book. It reminded me of a Fellini movie. Which of course means I’ll probably read it again someday to find out what I missed the first time and maybe figure it out. But I don’t look forward to that any time soon.