Title: Breakfast in Bogotá
Writer: Helen Young
Publishing House: Unbound
Date of Publication:August 8th 2019
Rating: 3 stars
‘’The night was crisp and filled with the sound of a thousand crickets and above this, an indigo sky purpled the horizon. Here, it might be possible to forget the city with its cramped streets and wild order.’’
1947, Bogotá. Luke Vosey, a British architect, has decided to make the Colombian capital his new home. Haunted by the memories of a woman and wounded by the implications of war, he dedicates himself to the vision of building a new city. Things become complicated when he meets Camillo and Felicia, two rather suspicious businessmen and a syndicate of fanatics.
The first pages are striking. Helen Young definitely knows how to create the proper atmosphere. The setting in the lively capital is vivid, tempting, at times ferocious. The extensive research is evident but the effect is subtle and flowing through beautiful prose. The readers find themselves in Bogotá through the pages and the themes are as interesting as the background of the story. There is unrest, danger. Money dictates everything while the locals are ignored and abused. Redesigning a city is one thing, destroying the citizens’ properties in the name of modernization of a dubious kind is quite unethical.
Luke’s character demonstrates the difficult task of finding the balance between his upbringing and the acceptance of a stranger, along with the shadow of the past at a time when change is mandatory. Themes of creativity, reconstruction (literal and metaphorical), and a somewhat controversial notion of progress. Excellent depiction of the complicated era and the political and social circumstances in a country of great antitheses, rich culture, and beauty.
Unfortunately, my positive comments will have to end here…
The dialogue is naive and certain moments are cheesy, romantic to the point of stupidity and melodramatic. For example:
-You called me Catherine again.
-She has quite a hold over you.
-How do you feel, Luke?
-By the look on your face, terrible.
– I was so worried.
I also counted 8355 ‘’please’’, 5655 ‘’Oh, no!’’ and 3454 ‘’it’s okay.’’
Thank you but no.
Furthermore, certain actions that could have been interesting were simplified by the characters, especially Felisa. Well, I can’t say that she is an exemplary female character given the standards of our times. She showed much potential in the beginning but was soon reduced to the role of the ‘’love interest’’ – I hate those with a vengeance- and acted like the typical melodramatic heroine that is also a scientist, activist, magnanimous and damn clever. Again, no. I enjoyed the socio-political references and the depiction of Luke’s troubled personality but when the plot sailed away from these themes for the sake of romance, I was bored. Personal preference, obviously, but the ‘’will they/won’t they’’ affairs are of no interest to me, especially when they are copies of soap operas. Catherine’s subplot also became redundant and her juxtaposition to Felisa was tiring and uninspired.
These (strictly personal) impressions along with the fact that the plot lost its power beyond the 60% mark make me consider this a novel that has much potential to be widely loved but for me, it ended up being average. Too average, in fact. A novel with brilliant setting and beautiful prose, hurt by simplistic, sappy dialogue, weak characters, and an extremely predictable and naive closure.
Many thanks to Unbound, NetGalley and the PigeonholeHQ for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.