The year is l854. In Paris, Francisco Solano the future dictator of Paraguay begins his courtship of the young, beautiful Irish courtesan Ella Lynch with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and ahorse named Mathilde. Ella follows Franco to Asunción and reigns there as his mistress. Isolated and estranged in this new world, she embraces her lover's ill-fated imperial dream one fueled by a heedless arrogance that will devastate all of Paraguay.
With the urgency of the narrative, rich and intimate detail, and a wealth of skillfully layered characters, The News from Paraguay recalls the epic novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.
Tuck's style in these early pages is as effective and swift as in her earlier and most successful novel, Siam. By page 30, our two unsentimental opportunists are together in South America, and Ella is pregnant. Many images are so vivid you can almost smell them: the abattoirs of Buenos Aires, where cattle are killed only for their hides and the flayed carcasses are left to rot in the street; the whirring clouds of birds and teeming jungle flora on the couple's trip upriver to Asuncion; the broken arm that hurts, festers and finally kills Ella's young maidservant.