A Storm Hits Valparaiso is quite a sea change considering the previous books by this author. If You Go Into the Woods and Transfection are short stories whereas this a full length historical fiction novel. Having given the former 5 and 4 stars respectively I was looking forward to reading this book.
This book is largely set in South America in the early 1800s, detailing the impact of the struggle for freedom from Spain on a number of characters. Catalina has always been able to take care of herself; dealing with the patrons of her father's cafe has taught her plenty. When she loses her father and her home the skills she has honed come in very handy. Diego and Jorge are brothers who are both fighting for the Patriots but see life very differently and find a chasm building between them. Other central characters are important historic individuals like senior British Naval Officer Thomas Cochrane, whose radical politics saw him targeted and marginalised, and Jose De San Martin; a key military figure in the fight for independance.
The author provides details at the end of the book about some of the key facts and characters woven into the story, and while working within the facts David Gaughran has still woven a captivating story of the lives of several people and how their paths cross during this dangerous period in South America's history. This is place and time I am not particularly familiar with so I didn't know what the outcome would be for the nations and the real characters. Before reading the end note I suspected that the author couldn't have taken too many liberties with major figures of the period but it felt like a piece of fiction rather than a straightforward, dry, historical account. The highs and lows of the senior miltary men are dramatic, but I found myself drawn in more by the stories of the "little people", whose lives were so affected by those men. Despite the story being told from several perspectives it was not hard to keep track, something probably helped by the good formatting. This is a well presented work.
This story is something of an epic, covering decades and detailing major events as well as small domestic details. I was pulled into their world and read on to find out who would survive the turmoil and how they would do so. One of the aspects of David's work I particularly enjoy is his ability to create a real impression of the characters and places without resorting to lengthy descriptions. With minimal words I felt I was getting a real feel for the people. While in some places towards the end there were parts summarising historic events that were a little flat in comparison, overall I very much appreciate the author's style.
I already knew the author wrote great short stories and I now know he's a deft hand with full length novels too. This was a really good read, loaded with drama, characters who develop throughout the book and a strong foundation in fact. I'd happily recommend it to fans of the genre.
Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Arriba Arriba Books
My Rating: 4*