Tales from the Blue Archives

Lawrence Thornton, Author Doubleday Books $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-48010-9
The brutality of the civil war years in Argentina continues to reverberate through the country's consciousness in Thornton's third novel (Imagining Argentina; Naming the Spirits) about the people who ""disappeared"" during the military dictatorship. The enduring consequences are as tragic as the events that initiated them. Here, Thornton takes up the fate of the two young boys (featured in the earlier books), who were torn from their parents by General Rudolfo Guzman and given to his henchman, Eduardo Ponce, and his wife, Beatriz. For 13 years, the boys' grandmother, Delores Masson, has never ceased to march in the Plaza de Mayo and to hope that they will be found. When that miracle does occur, she reclaims the boys from the Ponces, the only family they have known. Thornton stresses several ironies: the foster parents have sacrificed everything for ""their"" children and love the boys as fiercely as the grandmother; General Guzman is a devoted, protective and sentimental father and grandfather who nonetheless spouts vituperation about the boys' natural parents, deeming them Communist enemies of the state from whom the boys were ""saved."" Guzman's demented patriotic fervor, and that of the priest who contends that throwing people out of airplanes into the sea was justified by the church, provide the most dramatic elements of the novel. The rest of the narrative is oddly inert, perhaps because Thornton seems determined to avoid melodrama. But the absence of passion results in bloodless characters who seem manipulated by plot demands rather than driven by emotions. Still, the haunting message of the novel, that ""the blue archive"" of survivors' memories will continue to hold the evidence of Argentina's most shameful hour, is given forceful and convincing expression. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-553-37798-9
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