Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Colombia: The Blue Line, by Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt is a Colombian politician and activist who was held hostage in the jungle for six years by anti-government rebels. Although she has previously written a memoir of this time, and other non-fiction, The Blue Line is her first novel.

It is not in fact, set in Colombia, but in Argentina, in the years before, during and after its "Dirty War" of 1976 to 1983, with follow up chapters set in the United States. The ruling military junta at the time embarked on a terror campaign in which anyone believed to have socialist tendencies was arrested, tortured and made to disappear. The book is an odd mixture of what seems like factual reportage in tone, sprinkled with doses of magical realism. The heroine, Julia, has spells when she sees future events, and is able to use her knowledge to prepare herself and those close to her for what is to come, and change the outcome.

I wondered if, by setting her novel in Argentina rather than Colombia, and by writing in a rather matter of fact tone, the author was distancing herself from the emotional trauma of writing about horrendous events.

I did find myself feeling more drawn in to the story towards the later part of the book, however earlier on the tone made it seem more like reading a history book - but less believable, as far as the more magical elements were concerned.

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