It Would Be Night in Caracas

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Oct 2019

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First published in Spain in 2019; published in translation by HarperCollins/HarperVia on October 15, 2019

Adelaida Falcón, the narrator of It Would Be Night in Caracas, begins the novel with her mother’s death and funeral, including her fear that grave robbers will make off with her mother’s glasses. She pays for the burial with one of her last 50-euro notes, the bolivar having become a currency that is useful only for lighting fires. Her neighbors wonder if she will rent out the room in which her mother slept, but Adelaida will not have that chance as criminals take over her apartment. She survives by quietly inhabiting the apartment of a dead neighbor — a salvation made possible only because nobody else has discovered the neighbor’s corpse.

Criminal gangs roam the streets, often under the protection of the police. Food shortages have caused long lines and a thriving black market. Yet Adelaida is determined not to be anyone’s victim. Flashbacks to her time with her mother show us that Adelaida has her own mind and is stubborn about changing it.

The plot follows Adeliada’s scheme to escape to Spain by taking over the dead neighbor’s identity. Yet the story’s power lies not in the plot, which follows a simple and predictable path that depends on unlikely happenstance, but in the details of Adelaida’s life. People Adelaida knows are being murdered. Journalists are killed for reporting the truth. Their sources are killed for revealing the truth. A criminal friend risks his life to help Adeliada, suggesting that crime is sometimes an inescapable circumstances rather than a character flaw.

Adeliada condemns Venezuela’s upper class for judging her as the daughter of a single mother. She also condemns the nation’s obsession with beauty and youth, with keeping up appearances as everything falls apart, with its acceptance of men who walk out on their families. “The result was a nation built on the cleft of its own contradictions, on the tectonic fault of a landscape always on the brink of tumbling down on its inhabitants’ heads.”

Adeliada reserves much of her commentary for what Caracas has lost. Once a vibrant city of immigrants, built with the energy of people looking for a new and different life, the “children of those immigrants, people who bore little resemblance to their surnames, starting heading back across the ocean to countries that were home to other people, searching for the stock with which their own country was built.”

It Would Be Night in Caracas benefits from rich and evocative prose. Still, the novel is largely a howl of pain at the loss of a beloved country. While the plot builds little tension (there’s never a doubt about the outcome), tension is inherent in the anarchy and danger of a city gone feral. As a snapshot of the impossible anguish that ordinary residents of Caracas must endure, the novel has something to say. I recommend it for its value as a snaphot, not for its doubtful merit as a fully realized novel.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
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A fantastic look into the reality of living in the chaos that has become modern Venezuela. This is a brilliant translation that needs to be praised so that more readers will pick up this book. I look forward to hearing more from Sainz Borgo.
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Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. 

It Would Be Night In Caracas 
By: Karina Sainz Borgo 

*REVIEW* 💛💛💛
It Would Be Night In Caracas was not what I expected. Adelaide has just buried her mother, and she is, essentially,  alone in the world now.  The story details the corruption, violence, upheaval and chaos occurring in Venezuela. These issues are relevant and extremely important, and I'm glad the author addresses them. She spares no detail of the raw, gritty, painful, horrible life Adelaide is living. It's disturbing to read because it's the reality of so many lives, and no-one should have to live in such conditions. Everything about Adelaide felt painful and utterly despairing. I honestly don't think I would survive in this situation.  My only problem is the very slow pace of this story. The content is engaging and informative, but it's difficult to get through because it feels bogged down and never picks up speed. This book is not for everyone, but I would give it a try if these topics and issues intrest you.
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The grieving of a mother and of a country. That is what, in a nutshell, It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer, is about.

In Caracas, Venezuela, Adelaida Falcón has just buried her mother, a process that is made even more difficult by the explosive violence and scarcity gripping her country. People are routinely arrested and tortured, supermarket shelves are empty, the black market flourishes selling anything from medication to sanitary napkins, and blackouts are a regular occurrence. When thugs take over Adelaida's home, she discovers her neighbor dead in the apartment next door. If she can impersonate the neighbor, she might be able to get out of the country using the dead woman's Spanish passport.

Told like this, the novel sounds like a tense case of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but set in South America. Be warned: It's not really a thriller. The book is too quiet and small for that, and does not seem interested in turning into a suspense novel. This, partially, gives the feeling that things are a bit too easy when it comes to Adelaida's escape. She just happens to wander into an apartment with an open door, happens to find a corpse inside, the dead woman happens to have just left behind all the documents Adelaida might need to assume her identity. In that sense, this is no Hollywood movie and there are few, if any, surprises.

On the other hand, where It Would Be Night in Caracas does feel like a movie is in the descriptions of a city in chaos; Sainz Borgo presents violence and anarchy in minute and shocking detail.

She also pays loving and close attention to the relationship between mother and daughter, to the daily life before strife broke out in Venezuela, and spends many pages ruminating on the issues of immigration and finding one's home. The novel's original title is The Spanish Woman's Daughter, which reflects the constant thoughts of the protagonist about the European immigrants who established themselves in Latin America when it was full of opportunity, and how their children now desperately seek to return to Europe.

Unfortunately, Sainz Borgo doesn't lend nearly as much space to considerations about colorism and classism, and how they fed into the political circumstances that plunged Venezuela into economic ruin. Adelaida seems to view herself with a lofty superiority because she is an editor and former journalist who loves books and dreamily recalls all things European (an old house, the Italian shoe store where her mother shopped, a set of nice dishes), never quite pausing to consider the oppression, scarcity and poverty that has fueled the wave of violence she is living through. But this myopia is somewhat understandable, considering that Adelaida seems to exist in an interior world, a tiny capsule built for two: It's Adelaida and her mother against the universe, until Adelaida is left alone. And it is when Adelaida retreats inwards that the book feels the most poignant and raw.

Yet, because of this interiority, Sainz Borgo's account of the terror gripping the nation feels amorphous. Rather than a political conflict, this could be a zombie apocalypse for all we know — and we know very little, especially considering Adelaida is a well-read, well-informed woman.

Though these might seem serious gripes, I found the language in the book to be poetic; it kept me reading, immersed in the beauty of the prose. It Would Be Night in Caracas is a painful, angry book, full of melancholy and rage at the loss of a woman's nation.
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"It Would Be Night in Caracas" starts with a simple plot: a single woman is burying her mother. She goes back to the apartment that they shared and starts to deal with the process of grief. The problem is that she lives in Caracas, Venezuela, and it is quickly apparent that every day there is one filled with danger. From vigilante groups ran by the government, vigilante groups fighting against the government groups, money that is not worth the paper it is printed on, food shortages, and a thriving black market, the world that Karina Sainz Borgo describes is one that I cannot even wrap my head around. Some people might be put off by the description of how the main character, Adelaida Falcón, gets supplies for her period, or how she hears gunshots all through the night and learns that more of her neighborhood acquaintances have either disappears or been killed throughout the night, but I see this as a reality I do not understand. I see this as a novel of a person who is trying to go about her business in a turbulent climate, hiding out in her apartment, trying to stay quiet while listening to the noise on the outside, until the noise comes to find her. This novel tries to juxtapose the difference between the relative safety of Adelaida feels in the apartment and the chaos outside until the two meet and she has to make decisions that will affect her life but be instrumental to her survival. The tension of the novel picks up in the second half, and I really do feel the nerves that she is feeling. The tightness of the writing makes the urgency feel stronger, and the ending, though it seems as if she does not know how to end the novel for a few pages, does end satisfying. 

I enjoyed this novel. It feels tense and dangerous. I thought the end kind of dragged a little bit, but this is the only complaint I can find. "It Would Be Night in Caracas" is otherwise one of the best books I've read this year. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This suspenseful, literary novel follows Adelaida, whose mother has just died while Caracas devolves into chaos. Adelaida views street demonstrations while trapped in her apartment, struggles with impossible choices, and figures out how to survive. While this is fiction, it reads like a first-person memoir of life while your beloved city/homeland collapses in a thousand different ways. Riveting contemporary fiction, part of the new HarperVia (USA) imprint of literature in translation.  Author Karina Sainz Borgo grew up in Venezuela and now lives in Spain. Will appeal to book groups and readers who appreciate literature in translation, character-driven women's fiction, and novels with strong contemporary political undercurrents. Translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Breyer. Full review to come on BookBrowse.
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I honestly don’t know how to even start to describe how this book broke me emotionally. Set in the middle of a political war in Venezuela, Adelaida Falcónjust is saying goodbye to the only family member she has known, her mother whom lost her battle to cancer. Completely broken Adelaida returns to her apartment and tapes shut her windows to prevent the tear gas raining down on protesters in the streets from seeping in. Wait, it gets worse. 

Adelaida apartment is then taken over by looters masquerading as revolutionaries who beat her badly. With the strength of memory of her mother Adelaida fights to survive. Alternating between past & present Borgo makes you feel Adelaida struggles. I was on the verge of tears from page one. This book yanked my heart out of my chest! I’m telling Adelaida goes through it! The guilt of stealing food and the identity of a dead woman so she can get out of Venezuela, so many surprising twists and turns. This is a must read. 4.5/5 stars


Thank you Harpervia & NetGalley for gifting me this review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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It Would Be Night in Caracas is a timely novel, taking place in present day Venezuela, a country that has been in the news for the large number of protests going on in the country. Being a foreigner I didn’t have a deeper understanding of the conflict and why the protects were going on, but reading this book prompted me to start doing research in order to understand the context around the events of the novel. For this reason, I think that this novel was good, it helps shed light on what is going on in Venezuela politically that are lesser known to those outside of South America.

The deeply internal narrative drifts seemlessly between the present day and the past, from Adelaida’s childhood memories at the start of the Latin American debt crisis in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The debt crisis started when capitalist economies for several countries dropped when the price of oil plummeted and the national currencies inflated. She relives the Bolivarian Revolution, the way that her country evolved and changed over the years, and eventually details the horrifying events that lead up to the present day, including the student protest killings in 2014. At times the drifts back and forth in time could be a bit difficult to follow and place the time frame, it made the pacing a extremely slow.

The book does not shy away from the gritty detail of the deep corruption on all levels that presents a city that is oppressive, eating away at it’s inhabitants as they all lose a bit of their former lives bit by bit. The setting feels desolate and more like a battlefield at points, with clashes between protesters, gangs, and state police blurring the lines of who is who. The novel opens with the death of Adelaida, grieving for the death of her mother and namesake. The naming is allegorical in that it shows both the literal and proverbial death of Adelaida Falcón, a Venezuelan woman trapped in a city that is dying. Adelaida’s state of mind is somber and even monotonous as she steadily loses her grip on her life and her identity. This loss of identity and later, death of the self plays into a literal shedding of her old identity which I think in a way was smartly written, if a little heavy handed and too literal.

I appreciated the insight that this novel has into the role that one’s nationality can play into a person’s identity, and how the deterioration of society and poverty can have negative effects on a person’s mental health. I wanted to love this book for the intelligent dialogue about identity, but I found myself struggling to get through it. The story moves at a snail’s pace and is bogged down by random character’s stories in order to establish the setting or a plot device later on in the story.

The closer I got to the ending of the novel, the more bored I became with the almost ridiculous tie in of identity and death with the events in the novel, which is reiterated multiple times. I think that this story had a lot of potential and after taking some time to reflect on it, I was better able to dissect and appreciate the themes. However, the slow burning plot, drifting narrative, and bloated details made this a less enjoyable read overall. It would have been better with more concision and focus on the central ideas without getting bogged down with so many side character details that come out of nowhere.
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A brilliant read a book that brings the sadness turmoil in Venezuela and the shock horror the people of this country are suffering on a daily basis .Heart wrenching raw painful a book Characters I won’t forget.#netgalley#harpercollins
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Brutally raw novel about life in Venezuela and a woman struggling to make it in the midst of civil unrest.  Well written with great characters.
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When I saw this book available on Netgalley, the blurb completely drew me in. It seemed like it would educate me about a country and it's current crisis that I'm not too familiar with, even if it is fiction.
The book starts out with Adelaide dealing with a death and how even that isn't the easiest to deal with in Venezuela's current political crisis. We see what her neighborhood is going through and can easily envision it with the details given. It seems more war torn than I thought it would be and almost feels like something that would've happened during WWII in Europe. Unfortunately, some parts of the telling of the story seem a little lost. The unpredictability of when the author decides to throw in a flashback or a past event from another character didn't always flow with what was currently taking place with Adelaide and her living situation. It didn't divide up the two voices in a way that seemed seamless. 
The setting of the story in Caracas, Venezuela was more exciting than the actual story itself. It seemed a bit predictable, but I felt myself wanting to more about Adelaide and what she went through to get to her current state. The fear, hunger, and hatred of the leaders led to a way of survival that not everyone wanted to live, including Adelaide.

"In this country, non one rests in peace. No one."

The book read fast, but not so much a page turner, just a quick idea of what was currently happening. This book was ok and I could see it's appeal. I would be interested to see what people of Venezuela think of it for content purposes. Overall, I am glad I got to see someone take the desperation of survival and live through something so horrendous my any means necessary. Just wish it flowed better.
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Grieving the recent loss of her mother, her only real family, Adelaida struggles to survive in a nightmarish city torn apart by rioting and upheaval. After being violently evicted from her apartment, Adelaida finds herself and those around her performing acts that would have previously been unthinkable in order to survive. 
It Would Be Night in Caracas depicts a despairing, tumultuous Venezuela where the only hope is in escape.
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There is a lot of fear and heartbreak in this story.  Some of it was unsettling but the story was pretty well done. I enjoyed this book, and felt it was eye opening and full of emotions.
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This ARC was courtesy of netgalley - all thoughts and opinions are mine and unbiased

This was an intense hard read.  I found it haunting - both in the beautiful way it was written and the story and characters.  This will stay with me for some time

It has made me realise that although I know a little about the Venezuelan situation - I don't know enough - it has also left me wondering why the media have not picked up on this and given it the wider audience it surely deserves

The predicament of the characters chilled me to the bone - although it is fiction - I've no doubt that this is something that Venezuelans are experiencing in real life.  

Powerful, upsetting, beautifully illustrated in the language of the author

I cannot rate this highly enough
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This is an interesting story about Adelaida and her struggle to survive after the death of her mother. Set in Caracas, Venezuela, there could not be a more depressing setting.  Once the shining jewel of South America, the death of democracy and a well run government is now in free fall. 
This story is the tale of what one must do to survive.  
A compelling tale at times a bit jumpy but still worth the read. 
Thanks to Netgalley for the eArc for review purposes.
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This was an intense read. It made me realize how little I know about the political situation in Venezuela, and led me to some searching to better educate myself, which I always appreciate. If a book can make me want to know more about a real-life situation, I think the author has done something great.

In the midst of the chaos and upheaval in Caracas, Adelaide loses her mother, the only real family she has ever had, and returns to their apartment and the struggle to survive on her own. She is faced with some very difficult, life-alerting decisions, and the reader gets to feel her indecision and hopelessness along with her.

The writing here is very good and the translation worked well for me. The story is stark, lonely, and at times gruesome. The blurb mentions twists and turns, but it didn’t find these twists in my reading. The present day story flows along evenly, if at times it is somewhat slow, but the flashbacks were distracting and seemed to come at awkward times. I think this is ultimately what keeps the book from being a pick for me. Still, I would be interested in reading more from this author in the future.
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I was disappointed. 
I hope a book will reflect what Venezuela is and is not taking advantage of the economic and social crisis to bring about an opportunistic and apocalyptic book. 

Venezuela is something more complex than a war zone. Other authors think of Venezuela that will bring us to the present crisis (I recommend Eduardo Sánchez Rugeles) 

Less harm than fast reading . You will be ready.
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This was not an easy book to read. It's detailed and lyrical and heartbreaking and upsetting. I cared about the characters, I was brought to tears. I was scared for the characters and sad for them and invested in the plot. I could picture the rooms and streets and felt like I was reading about real people, which made me sad. Would definitely recommend.
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This stark and chilling book brilliantly humanizes the experience of its protagonist. Going deep behind the headlines of Venezuela's violent unrest, Borgo challenges readers to empathize with a woman is trying to understand just how much she can take and how far she will go to survive. This is a powerful book that does not sugarcoat suffering or lionize its characters for enduring it. Borgo's integration of traditional canciones and poetry adds immeasurably to the texture and beauty of her writing.
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"It Would be Night in Caracas" by Karina Sainz Borgo is the story of Adelaida Falcon and her life in an unstable and dangerous Venezuela.  After burying her mother and finding her apartment overtaken by revolutionaries, Adelaida must take desperate measures to survive in a city of violence and fear.

I was a bit disappointed by this book.  Perhaps there was something lost in translation.  I think it started off well, but the majority of the plot just seemed underdeveloped and some of it dragged.  Though the author depicted many of the horrible realities in Venezuela, the characters and events didn't ever really seem to come alive to me.  

As always, many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this book.
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