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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Secret History
of Costaguana

Juan Gabriel Vásquez

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase The Secret History of Costaguana

Title: The Secret History of Costaguana
Author: Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 279 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Secret History of Costaguana - US
Historia secreta de Costaguana - US
The Secret History of Costaguana - UK
The Secret History of Costaguana - Canada
The Secret History of Costaguana - India
Histoire secrète du Costaguana - France
Die geheime Geschichte Costaguanas - Deutschland
  • Spanish title: Historia secreta de Costaguana
  • Translated by Anne McLean

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Not completely taken by it -- but also only had a library copy to refer to, so not enough time to go back and reflect more closely

Chances that we will review it:

Tempted, but not sure

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 5/6/2010 Alberto Manguel
The Independent . 4/6/2010 Amanda Hopkinson
Independent on Sunday . 12/6/2011 Lesley McDowell
The LA Times . 7/8/2011 Jane Ciabattari
NZZ . 25/6/2011 Marko Martin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 26/6/2011 Natasha Wimmer
San Francisco Chronicle . 3/7/2011 Roberto Ignacio Díaz

  Review Consensus:

  Generally quite favorable, though also with a few reservations

  From the Reviews:
  • "What emerges instead is a convoluted, complex, many-layered chronicle of a country whose corrupt and war-torn present is the all-too-obvious inheritance of its corrupt and war-torn past. Not a hopeless picture, however, but an enlightening one." - Alberto Manguel, The Guardian

  • "Vásquez goes beyond magical realism, even beyond the postmodernist reaction to it." - Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent

  • "Wrong-footing the reader with characters that appear only to disappear again, and deliberate confusion over the sequences of events, is also a too familiar trick -- even if it is meant to mirror the complexity and violence of an emerging nation. But there's a great idea for a novel in here somewhere." - Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

  • "His strategy as a novelist is to dart back in time to explore dark moments in Colombian history and their consequences for his generation (.....) The considerable charm of what might otherwise be a tedious post-colonial history lesson lies with José, a character whose appeal grows as he meanders through a wry, wistful, occasionally bitter chronicle of a century of violent, convoluted Colombian history. (... ) The Secret History of Costaguana is a potent mixture of history, fiction and literary gamesmanship" - Jane Ciabattari, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Man könnte es also als einen Glücksfall bezeichnen, dass es weder in Joseph Conrads «Costaguana» einen José Altamirano gibt noch im gesamten nobelpreisgekrönten, vitalistischen Romanwerk von Gabriel García Márquez, dessen Figuren ja gewiss keine Heroen in Sachen distanzierter Reflexion sind. Andernfalls nämlich hätte sich Vásquez, längst der interessanteste Autor seiner Generation, wohl kaum ausreichend provoziert gefunden, um dieses unvergessliche Buch zu schreiben, das weit mehr ist als nur ein Annex zu den bisher bekannten Geschichten all der Costaguanas Lateinamerikas." - Marko Martin, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Despite Altamirano’s constant presence and his direct exhortations to the reader, he remains a cipher, and his final decision to abandon the one person he holds dear is unconvincing. This would matter less if the novel’s intellectual thrills were more radical." - Natasha Wimmer, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Secret History of Costaguana, especially as it reaches its end, becomes bogged down in the history of Panama. But when Vásquez, like Conrad and Borges, restrains history and lets his mind's eye take flight, he too becomes a master of fiction." - Roberto Ignacio Díaz, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The Secret History of Costaguana: Reviews: Nostromo: Other books by Juan Gabriel Vásquez under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in 1973.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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