Miranda France's first book is a neat, informative and sometimes amusing introduction to Buenos Aires: its history, culture and people. Whilst I started off with only a general curiosity for Argentina, my interest has been much awakened by the author's vivid and thoroughly researched accounts. France takes the reader through her experiences in Buenos Aires by focusing on a series of different aspects of the city and its culture: Evita, the Falklands, the 'Dirty War' and the preoccupation with self analysis provide several examples. This approach is made interesting through the way France depicts the time she spent there, shown through meetings with many different people. These range from neighbours, to workers in cafes and stalls, to more prominent members of Buenos Aires society - with a chilling revelation made by one person that she talks to featured towards the end of the book.
However, what comes across more than anything is the sadness which seems so deeply built into Buenos Aires: the 'disappeared', the story of Evita, the origins of tango, and Argentine 'bronca' all reflect a (seemingly) unsettled culture which, ultimately, France herself becomes caught up in. In the end, it is this that wills her back home, though she must now look back with much affection.
This is a superb first picture of a city and country many of us do not know much about. 'Bad Times in Buenos Aires' is a treat to read, and despite what the title suggests, may even encourage one or two readers to go and see (and experience) it for themselves Definitely a recommended book for anyone who enjoys good travel writing.