I have never been one to like novels based on historical facts. I like my fiction invented by the author and delivered with descriptions that make me feel like I am an anonymous witness to the action. “The Isle of Passion,” by Laura Restrepo, is a historical novel that is so well written and interesting that it has made me rethink my preference. It is so excellent, that it is difficult to stop reading it once you start. I picked it up at a local book store and glanced through a few pages before deciding to buy it.

I was impressed with the quality of the prose and was particularly impressed by the fact that it was a translation from Spanish, and still worked masterfully in English.

“The Isle Of Passion” is the story of the people who wasted their lives on a tiny and insignificant island, also known as Clipperton, for the sake of maintaining Mexican sovereignty over it. Mexico and the poor souls who moved to, and lived and died on the tiny island, would have been better off ignoring it and yielding control of it to anyone else. The story is replete with ironies of political and military command. Everything in the story makes you feel that there are many foolish decisions made in the political and military sphere that affect people’s lives, and are largely uncontested and followed blindly.

The only resource of value on the island is bird guano. As you might imagine, even the company that has been faithfully returning to the island to take the guano away eventually decides that a little bird shit is just not worth the effort and closes its business there. That leaves the island with no value or purpose. It is difficult to describe much more without destroying the plot and making the book less interesting, but suffice it to say that once the guano is not needed, the island becomes even more isolated and its inhabitants more desperate.

The following quote should give you a taste of the prose that is contained within this wonderful book: “The small, faded universe in front of her eyes reverberated and consumed itself in a slow combustion. Alicia saw how much the ocean seemed to explode over the reefs, pounding the rocks, the few sickly coconut palms, and the human beings, then coming to rest on every crevice, hollow and cranny. The sun lost no time in evaporating the water, and everything was soon covered with a mirrorlike layer of salt, refulgent, blinding. The ocean spray would fall slowly on the people, transforming them into salt statues. It was only in their eyes, in the feverish eagerness in their gaze, that Alicia discovered the great expectations, repressed but fierce, for the boat’s arrival.”

I think the quote is probably enough to convince you that this is an excellently written book that is worth buying. Enjoy!

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