Bib·li·o·phil·amiga n.

A girlfriend of a book lover or collector of books. Also fellow book lover.

This entry comes from my dear friend and accomplice Shutterbabe. Read on and learn about her and a great book she’s read.

BookGirl and I have known each other for yonkers (about two decades!). I have always been impressed with her love of books and she is certainly my resource when it comes to “what do I read next?”

My love of books started a little later in life. If I had to pinpoint the timing, I would have to say it was in high school and a certain teacher, Mr. Thompson, who was quite the character. He had a poster of the Bard hanging in his classroom and whenever he stood next to it you couldn’t tell the two apart. Let’s just say he made an indelible impression for which I owe him my gratitude.

Review of The Mermaid and The Drunks by Ben Richards

A poem by my favourite poet, Pablo Neruda, was the influence behind the title of this novel. For me, this was an excellent selling point and a telltale sign that this story was going to be a fun read.

Take the two main protagonists: Fresia, the daughter of Chilean exiles, who escapes her life in London to return to her country of birth after her father’s suicide and learns to rediscover herself and her roots. Joe, Scottish academic & lecturer returning to Chile to finish his research for the book he is writing (and his obsession) about Chilean history. Throw in a wealthy and mysterious local, the backdrop of the Allende government, and the coup d’état of Pinochet and you have the making of an interesting narrative.

At times the book reads like a travelogue and you can find yourself immersed in the idiosyncrasies of the culture, beauty of the landscape and hardships faced by the people of this fascinating country. Other times there are sprinklings of Chilean words (completes, empanadas, schop) that steer the reader to be curious about the language. All these things kept me smiling and wanting to read more.

Ben Richards is known for his early fascination with Chile that eventually formed his almost unhealthy obsession about Allende’s death during the coup. He first visited Chile before the ousting of Pinochet and was arrested during a protest he joined with students opposed to the regime. It becomes obvious that Joe is playing out some of the author’s personal feelings and interest that is integral to the continuous reference of Chile’s history and struggle.

‘It all very much depends on your place and angle of view…’ – this singular quote from the book is key to best describing the bond that is formed between the lives of the different characters and their individual search for belonging, heritage, friendship, and of course love. Simple and poignant.

I really enjoyed this book and it is always a treat to read a novel that leads me to discover new places and I have now added South America to my list of world travel destinations.

Gracias, Ben