Perla by Carolina De Robertis is a historical fiction book about Argentina’s Dirty War. The author is a daughter to Uruguayan parents, but her grandparents were Argentinians in exile.
Perla, a young woman and a university student, seeks to find answers. The tradition in her family is to not to ask questions, especially about her father’s activities during the time known as Argentina’s Dirty War. As Perla grows up, she separates her family life from her personal life.
One day, after Perla arrives home she finds a strange man in her living room. The man is soaked and oozes water all the time, surprising even herself, Perla reacts to this “vision” by giving him food and shelter only to realize that he is one of the “disappeared,” a victim of the Dirty War who might hold the key to her past.
I very much enjoyed The Invisible Mountain, and when I got the email to ask if I’d like to join the tour for Carolina De Robertis’ Perla I jumped at the opportunity. The novel has many aspects one could see it from it is a coming of age story, historical literature and supernatural aspects so prominent in Latin literature.
One thing is for certain, Ms. De Robertis can write, Perla is a beautiful novel about an ugly situation. Even the parts about the horrendous acts the Argentinean government committed against its own people are beautifully written.
“The day the black boots came for him was a pretty day, with bright blue slices of sky between the buildings”.
As in many of the books I read, especially about World War II, I always ponder what makes good people do bad things?
Could it be the herd mentality?
The firm belief that you are actually keeping the country together?
That you are the “good guys” in the story?
This type of questions are a part of the story which the author tackles. Ms. De Robertis tells her tale focusing on the long term affects of the war, blending history, fiction, shame, honor and magic in an engrossing yarn. The author offers just enough context within the story to appreciate the history which the story revolves around, while certainly not a definitive historical book, it is not meant to be as such, but simply whets the appetite to read some more.
Perla is an elegant, poetic and deceptively simple book which tells of a young woman coming to grip with her own history at the time Argentina comes to grip with its own past.