Tuesday, 15 October 2019

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo
First published as La hija de la espanola by Lumen 1 in Spain in March 2019. English language translation by Elizabeth Bryer published by HarperVia today, the 15th October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An urgent literary phenomenon sold in over 22 languages before publication, a gripping tale of one woman’s desperate battle to survive the dangerous, sometimes deadly, turbulence of modern Venezuela.

In Caracas, Venezuela, Adelaida Falcon stands over an open grave. Alone, except for harried undertakers, she buries her mother – the only family Adelaida has ever known.

Numb with grief, Adelaida returns to the apartment they shared. Outside her window tear gas rains down on protesters in the streets. When looters masquerading as revolutionaries take over her apartment, Adelaida resists and is beaten up. This marks the beginning of a fight for survival in a country that has disintegrated into violence and anarchy, where citizens are increasingly pitted against each other.

From a powerful, new voice, It Would Be Night in Caracas is a chilling reminder of how quickly the world we know can crumble.

It Would Be Night In Caracas is a beautifully chaotic novel, initially jumping about in place and time, a confusing device which I felt reflected both the chaos of Adelaida's mental state as she tries to come to terms with her mother's death, and the chaos of her country whose revolutionary fighting rapidly approaches through the course of the story. It Would Be Night In Caracas is a distinctly Hispanic novel, but its events could be provoked anywhere in the near future. I could see similarities to the Syria of Yusra Mardini's memoir, Butterfly, and The Cellist Of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway in the way that ordinary people find themselves overtaken by the violence of others. Here in Caracas, Borgo's gentle prose style makes the novel's sudden graphic scenes even more horrific by their contrast to Adelaida's accustomed life of quiet bookishness. I could strongly empathise with this character throughout her story.

I was often moved by Adelaida's nostalgia for her childhood despite those years not having been a typically happy idyll. Her immediate family was only ever herself and her mother so their bond is absolute, but her remembrances of summers spent with Aunts Amelia and Clara allow readers to appreciate Venezuela in an earlier, peaceful time. I hadn't realised until writing this review now just how much It Would Be Night In Caracas is a novel of women. Male characters are an outside presence, absent by their own choice such as Adelaida's father or taken away unwillingly like Ana's brother. Even the thugs who force Adelaida from her apartment are women.

On finishing reading and going to update my Goodreads, I was surprised to see many reviewers hadn't liked this story at all. It looks like it's going to be a Marmite book! Personally I think I love the story more in looking back over it than perhaps I did on my initial reading. Borgo's writing is deceptively light so the themes she developed alongside the main narrative have taken time to blossom in my mind. I now have a much more nuanced and complex idea of It Would Be Night In Caracas than I did immediately upon finishing it yesterday. I can certainly see how there has been such an international clamour to get the story translated into myriad languages and I am delighted to have the opportunity to read the English edition. A thoughtful, cautionary novel which, I feel, deserves all its acclaim.

Etsy Find!
by By Lola Sanchez
North Carolina, USA

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Books by Karina Sainz Borgo / Contemporary fiction / Books from Venezuela


  1. I actually like the sound of this one. I love the backdrop of a nation in chaos and a character embroiled in her own personal upheavals.

    1. Borgo brilliantly combines those two aspects here :-)

  2. I am not sure I would be able to keep up well with the time jumps, but there is something about this book that has captivated me. I am going to add it to my TBR. It sounds like this one was very emotional and nostlagic in feeling, and was a good read.

    1. Once I got used to the time jumps, I found this story easier to follow, but I appreciated the confusion aspect of not always knowing where (or when!) I was as this reflected Venezuela at the time