Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Disappeared by Gloria Whelan

Buenos Aires, Argentina. 1977. General Lopez, (a fictional character) renowned for his cruelty, has shut down the university and arrested the professors. Many people have been arrested and are never seen again. They are called Los Desaparecidos. The Disappeared.

Silvia Diaz's brother, Eduardo, is arrested one night. The police always come in the night so no one knows whose home they have come to. Eduardo had become increasingly involved in anti-government meetings and demonstrations. He did not want people to forget those who had disappeared. He was protesting the military rule of Argentina.

Life in Argentina's circa 1977 is told by so called "letters" that Eduardo and Silvia write to one another. Neither will ever read these letters. They are a literary construct of the author to tell the story in two voices.
Silvia decides she will use her good looks to make Norberto Lopez, son of the cruel General fall in love with her. He has shown an interest in her much to the horror of herself, initially and her friends. It is her hope that he will care enough for her to grant her request to have his father free Eduardo.

Meanwhile Eduardo barely endures torture and the brutality of prison. He is appalled to see a doctor allow his torturers to continue in contrast to his own father who has spent his life trying to alleviate the sufferings of others.

Eduardo and Silvia's mother joins the many mothers of Los Desaparecidos who march daily in the Plaza de Mayo - outside the Casa Rosada where General Videla, president of Argentina resides.

Despite warnings from her friends and her parents, Silvia continues to see Norberto. She knows he has the same cruel side that his father has, and that he uses people but her desire to free her brother makes her incapable of seeing how dangerous her plan is. Will she succeed? And at what cost?

Although the historical subject matter was very interesting, I felt that this story wasn't particularly well told. The characters were flat and naive to the point that it was difficult to relate to their experiences. The book was too short to explore the historical events in a realistic and informative manner, both beginning and ending abruptly. The ending was unrealistic and seemed highly improbable given the circumstances. A big disappointment since the cover and the historical matter caught my interest.

Book Details:

The Disappeared by Gloria Whelan
New York: Speak

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