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Lima Nights, by Marie Arana.

September 17, 2013

Lima Nights, by Marie Arana.   Dial Press Trade Paperback (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 256 pages.


An entertaining story of a man and a woman from different strata of Peruvian society by an author who grew up in the country.

 Bluhm is the middle-aged son of a German family that made its money in Peru.  He loves his family, but also enjoys brief affairs with a variety of women, especially with cholas, dark-skinned native women whom he sees as “more disposable” than lighter skinned ones.  Then he dances with a young woman at a club and against his better judgment, becomes deeply attached to her.  Maria is beautiful, intelligent, and only 15, almost 30 years younger than Bluhm.  She lives in a slum as dreadful as those I have been reading about in other global cities.  She is ambitious, and a prosperous white man is the only practical way out of the daily horrors of her life.  And Bluhm is attractive and caring.  To him, she brings a combination of childlike innocence and sexual aggression.  The first half of the books tells of how the two meet and become involved. The second half shows what has happened to them twenty years later.  I won’t talk about it because I can’t without revealing spoilers.

Arana, who has lived in Peru, is at her best in revealing the social gulf between the wealthy European circles and those who live in deep poverty.  Bluhm and Maria try to bridge that gulf in a private world of love, but difficulties abound.  Their lives have been so different that understanding each other is hard.  His friends and family are frankly appalled, and when she walks away from the slum there is nothing pulling her back.  The first part of their story is set in the years when the city of Lima, and Peru more generally, was under attack from rebels and everything seems uncertain and insecure.  At first both Bluhm and Maria seem to be getting what they need.   Arana never blames them for their actions and shows real empathy for those caught in poverty.

Lima Nights is a good book, and I am glad to recommend it, especially to those who appreciate books that center on the complex relationship of a man and a woman.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2013 11:34 am

    very interesting and intriguing. I have some qualms though, about the affair mainly because of the age gap. If Bluhm was married then that leaves a lot to be desired. I hate to be judgemental though, when I have not read the book.

    • September 25, 2013 1:24 pm

      The author makes clear that the affair is problematic because of the age difference and the marriage. Without being overly critical, she shows that even after years have passed they are barely compatible. She certainly does not intend her story to set up a model to follow.

      • September 25, 2013 1:29 pm

        Hmm, much as we would abhor such a relationship, it is the reality I must concede. Poverty does push lots of young girls into affairs with men old enough to be their fathers. Thanks, Marilyn.

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