May. 14th, 2009

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Julia Alvarez – Saving the world (09-018)

Sometimes over five hours in a train on one day can be a burden, sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. To me, a good book can make a difference. This was the book I had with me when I ended up crossing the country twice in a train.

Alvarez wrote the impressive ‘In the time of butterflies’, shortly after I spent a year in her native country, the Dominican Republic. Every book she has written since has a Dominican twist in it somewhere. Not a good sign for the author: I didn’t even know she had written this book, until I bumped into it in the discount store.

There are two stories in this one novel. One in the present tense, in America and the Dominican Republic, one in the past tense, in Spain and Puerto Rico mainly. The obvious intention is that the reader has to see the similarities between the two stories. In both stories, in 2006 and 200 years before that, people try to save the world, do what is right in their opinion. In both stories the world isn’t ready for the visionaries.

The main character, who does seem a bit autobiographical to me, is reading about the historic journey, with a lot of orphans saving the world through an inventive vaccination programme. Her husband in the meantime is battling the modern day plague; AIDS is the name, in her native country, the Dominican Republic. She remains alone in the USA, trying to write a novel that was due, but is nowhere to be found in her head and sees her husband travelling to her native country. The world seems upside down.

The stories kept me awake during a long journey, I was happy to read another Alvarez-novel, but it never was near the excellence of her first novel.

Quote: “What had I done? I was responsible for each and every one of these innocent children! How vulnerable they suddenly seemed: Juan Antonio was coughing and had a snotty nose, Pascual complained that he was hungry and even the little rascal Francisco seemed pale and anxious.” (p.81)

Number: 09-018
Title: Een betere wereld (Orig.: Saving the world)
Author: Julia Alvarez
Language: Dutch (Orig.: English US)
Year: 2006
# Pages: 432 (4117)
Category: Fiction
ISBN: 90-245-5527-2


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