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3.8 out of 5 stars38
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 2010
A deeply rewarding read about a wealthy white middle class couple, Delaney and Kyla, (her 6 yo son, "her matching Dandy Dinmont terriers, Osbert and Sacheverell, and her Siamese cat, Dame Edith") and an illegal immigrant Mexican couple whose lives collide in a series of unforgettable incidents. Kyla the main bread winner in the Mossbacher household is a real estate agent whose observations and personal habits are delightfully evoked by Boyle creating a wonderfully vile character. Candido and América's hauntingly down trodden lives and experiences are vividly portrayed as they encounter a series of humiliating and devastating events. One reviewer describes this book as a depressing read which it would be for those whose aspirations are to replicate the lifestyle of Kyla living in an upmarket residential estate in the foothills of Los Angeles.
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on 22 October 2003
This is such a wonderful read. Rich, insular American Dream coexists with desparate Mexican poverty. Comparisons with Steinbeck are inevitable but Mr Boyle can be proud of writing what I feel will be regarded as a classic to stand alone. A marvellous mix of characters interwoven with themes which challenge ideas and perceptions of race, class, wealth and consciensce.
Read this. You won't forget it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 December 2008
Not in a long time have I been gripped like this by a novel, fretting, twisting, turning to the next chapter with my teeth clenched, hands clasped onto the slippery book covers, waking up to find out we still don't know what's next. This book sucks its reader into a vortex, the same its characters are remorselessly pulled into. And Boyle is a master at varying pace; the more sedate chapters are just short and interesting enough they don't turn into an interference.

The Tortilla Curtain is a hard-hitting tale. Parallel universes intersect to periodic, catastrophic effect, that of miserable Mexican illegals and wealthy, spoilt Californian locals. Candido and his young, pregnant wife live from hand to mouth, in constant danger from vagrants and vigilantes, not to mention the elements. For them, the American dream is just that: a dream, quite distinct from the nasty struggle for survival that is their lot. At the beginning of the novel, Candido gets hit by Delaney's car. Delany Mossbacher is the liberal whose beliefs fail the test of reality, writing articles on nature while his community is being fenced in, worrying about his estate-agent wife's dogs instead of the man he has almost killed and who is now starving on his doorstep.

The book opens with a quote from The Grapes of Wrath. It begins where the literary monument to the depression dropped off, on a roadside in California. And this is another catastrophe of destitution facing indifference, then hostility. My only complaint about The Tortilla Curtain is with its ending, which also echoes Steinbeck's book (there is a flood, a life is saved, and something else happens which I won't betray). Boyle's novel is ironic, frequently biting and sarcastic. The Grapes of Wrath is pure tragedy. One can't have a Steinbeck ending without the same classical build up to it; it is just too brutal. Or so was my feeling: please judge for yourself, you will find it worthwhile!
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on 16 May 2011
i purchased this book,and i just couldn't put it down,and tell my friends that theres a good book coming there way,i just wanted to jump in the book and right all the wrongs,it trulywas one of my favourite book iv'e read for a while i highly recommend.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2002
This is the first for me, reading a book by T. Coraghessan Boyle, and I was very impressed by his work.
This book is set in Los Angeles and focuses strongly on two couples from totally different social and economical backgrounds. Kyra and Delaney Mossbacher are the upper class Americans; while Candido and America Rincon are illegal immigrants from South of the border.....Mexico.
The Tortilla Curtain is the border between Mexico and Los Angeles which the immigrants cross illegally to find work as labourers and a better way of life in that state.
The Mexicans endure severe hardships for little money as they enter this country of the 'well to do'. Meanwhile the 'upper crust' are flourishing for all to see, their main problem being to keep the immigrants out. As much as they are rich and better off one begins to feel that the immigrant Mexican has a more contented heart. They seem fulfilled at times with a deep satisfaction, passion and feeling that the 'upper crust' are unable to project. They are poor.....but their spirits are strong and hard to break.
See what life becomes for these two couples from opposite sides of the track....and you will find these characters living in your memories for a long time. This is the type of book that one hates to finish. Get it for Christmas....I got mine. Well written and highly recommended!!
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on 16 January 2016
If you're familiar with Boyle's works you'll know that he loves nothing better than to subject his characters to torture and push them to the end of their physical and mental limits.

At the same time, he manages to make their suffering funny and the reader ends up laughing at the plight of some unfortunate fellow human being in dire straits.

This was is the case with Mungo Park, the young 18th century Scottish explorer held prisoner by the Moors in the Sahara desert in “Water Music” and the young Japanese sailor stranded in the swamps of Georgia in “East is East”.

The unfortunate in “The Tortilla Curtain” is an illegal Mexican immigrant living rough with his pregnant wife in the scrubland around Los Angeles.

The ordeals he goes through to try and make a new life in the United States are never ending and are matched by an American character who, through a series of misunderstandings and coincidences, becomes almost deranged and ends up hating the Mexican - with disastrous results.

Boyle quotes from “The Grapes of Wrath” in a foreword but whereas Steinbeck treats the issue of poor outsiders trying to create a new life in California in almost a documentary way, Boyle makes it horrible and funny at the same time.

Some readers might feel he goes over the top – and he does stretch the story at times – but it is a great read by a writer I feel is underrated.
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on 26 December 2012
I have just finished reading this for the second time. I had never read anything buy Boyle before and I love his writing style - extremely accomplished and yet easy to read. I could not put this book down. The horrendous conditions of the Mexicans living condition and the rich lifestyle of the Americans provides a fascinating contrast and the last chapter is is riveting.
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on 12 February 2012
I had read and loved Drop City and was not disappointed by my second T C Boyle choice. The story is a real page-turner and the characters wonderfully developed. Boyle cleverly draws the reader's sympathies to each different perspective and weaves the stories together with huge skill, using such a vast range of unusual vocabulary. Well worth reading.
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on 17 March 2014
This is a superb novel. It interweaves the stories of wealthy Americans living in California and of the illegal Mexican immigrants trying to exist invisibly among them. The main characters are Delaney, a liberal nature-lover who develops fear and loathing of the Mexicans, and Cándido and his wife América, whose paths cross Delaney’s. Boyle contrasts the extreme poverty and desperation of the immigrants with the comfortable lives of the Americans but succeeds in eliciting empathy for both. He also draws interesting parallels between the wild predators, such as coyotes, and the illegal immigrants, both of which breach the increasingly prison-like defences of the Californians' homes.

The themes of inequity, injustice and fear of the unfamiliar elevate this to a universal parable that stayed with me after I finished the book. I shall look out for more of Boyle's novels.
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on 30 May 2009
This book is incredibly well written. The language is exquisite and Boyle is an amazing author. However, the book is quite depressing and therefore not an 'enjoyable' read.

Essentially it tells the story of 2 couples - 1 middle class, successful and white American. The other dirt poor, homeless Mexican illegal immigrants. The 2 couples live only minutes away from one another and their paths cross on several occasions throughout the book to allow for their contrasting lives to raise questions of humanity, justice, poverty and immigration.

I felt that towards the end of the book some of the 'misfortunes' that happen, espeically to the Mexican couple are too depressing and dramatic to actually be real. Plus but that stage I really needed a glimmer of hope to keep going.

It's an interesting book, but be prepared for an uncomfortable and upsetting read!
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