La Hora Azul or The Blue Hour is a novel by Peruvian author Alonso Cueto and is translated into English by Frank Wynne. The book looks back on Peru’s history, exploring the aftermath of the Peruvian Civil War.
Alonso Cueto Caballero: The Author
Alonso Cueto Caballero is from Lima, Peru, with a writing career spanning nearly four decades. He is an author, university professor and newspaper columnist. His stories are set in crucial periods of Peruvian history, discussing the war and the modern Peru that has emerged from it.
The Blue Hour Book Review
The Blue Hour begins with Adrian, a lawyer well-placed in Lima’s high society with a picture-perfect wife and two daughters. The book progresses into a well-crafted psychological drama of a son coming to terms with the painful ghosts of his father’s past. The book details the horrors and crimes of war, poverty, and how people have to live with it decades after it is supposedly over.
After his mother’s death, Adrian learns some hard truths about his father, who he barely knew and had died years before. Adrian discovers that his father was linked to atrocities committed against the Shining Path guerrillas and that he had also kidnapped and kept a local girl, Miriam, whose family now seeks retribution.
He gets a letter blackmailing him for money in return for not exposing his father’s deeds during the war. Adrian sets out to shut down the blackmail but gets more entangled in history than he expected, impacting his work and family life. He becomes obsessed with Miriam, who he believes has been wronged and might be the mother of his stepbrother or stepsister. The series of events that follow devastate his entire view of the past, his parents, and his country.
The character of Adrian is sketched out in detail, as he is the narrator. I wonder if the other characters are not so detailed or nuanced because of his inability to understand and observe, or is it a shortcoming of the author himself.
Alonso Cueto won the Herralde Prize in 2005 for The Blue Hour (La Hora Azul). The book has plenty of themes to keep you engrossed: family secrets; an obsessive love affair; the brutality, misery and guilt of war; and an anti-hero searching for answers.
Translated books are a treasure trove of insights into different parts of the world. I would highly recommend adding this to your reading list.
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