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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilean Charm!
A spicy mix of Chilean society, life, politics, history, relationships of love and friendship and the odd drop of Pisco (local tipple!).
Fresia was born in Chile but raised in Britain, when her parents were exiled in the 1970s. Her father never recovered from the break from his country and, after his tragic death, Fresia decides to sample life in her birth country,...
Published on 26 Aug. 2004 by travisbooks

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good evocation of Chile, but ultimately left me indifferent
Having been fortunate enough to have spent some time in Chile nearly 10 years ago, I felt that the book could not be faulted on portraying the idiosyncracies and quirks of the country. It made me smile to remember the little chilienismos,(not sure how to spell that) that dont translate back into understandable phrases back in Spain. He also brought into colour the fairly...
Published on 30 July 2004 by emsystewart


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilean Charm!, 26 Aug. 2004
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
A spicy mix of Chilean society, life, politics, history, relationships of love and friendship and the odd drop of Pisco (local tipple!).
Fresia was born in Chile but raised in Britain, when her parents were exiled in the 1970s. Her father never recovered from the break from his country and, after his tragic death, Fresia decides to sample life in her birth country, the land of her father, to free herself from old ghosts, find contentment and perhaps take her vocation of photography which she had given up after the loss of her beloved dad.
She meets Joe, a young Scottish lecturer, writing a book on Chilean history. Matters get complicated however. Joe is in love with Fresia, but Magdalena is in love with Joe. Magdalena is a local with big hair, bigger opinions. Something of an activist, her opinions and rioting can lead them to trouble...
I loved the mix of fiction, watching friendships grow and falter, local life in Chile, especially descriptions of mouth-watering food, sprinkled with a dabble of history and sociology, so the reader feels enriched, truly learning about another country, another culture, whilst following the character's lives.
I enjoyed this book and feel refreshed having learnt things I did not know.
A good holiday read, as the fact it is set in another country gets you in the vacation mood!
Travis Boos
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good evocation of Chile, but ultimately left me indifferent, 30 July 2004
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
Having been fortunate enough to have spent some time in Chile nearly 10 years ago, I felt that the book could not be faulted on portraying the idiosyncracies and quirks of the country. It made me smile to remember the little chilienismos,(not sure how to spell that) that dont translate back into understandable phrases back in Spain. He also brought into colour the fairly weird food and drink that I ate in abundannce (aji chileno - chilli sauce, schop - beer, completos - hotdogs) Although it did occur to me his liberal sprinkling of these specific chilean words with no translation might seem a little inaccessible, (obviously not according to Richard and Judy readers).It was also fun to remember the places I had visited and had all but forgotten. For me, the narrative of the book was dull and left me indifferent to the characters who never came to life. The characters seemed insipid and dreary and the book lurches from non event to non event. Nothing much really happens ultimately. If this had been a travelogue then i would have found it far more satisfying, as his descriptions of places in Chile are very evocative. In fact i would say that his peripheral 'landscape' characters have more life than his watery main characters, whose names i have already forgotten.
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2.0 out of 5 stars never gets going, 4 May 2014
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
This book starts off nicely, couple of potentially interesting characters and plot starting to warm up and then a seemingly random occurrence blindsides the story and becomes the main plot. Out of nowhere the attempted mugging of some businessman introduces the main purpose of the novel and I was left wondering where the plot was going before that. This mugging that our original hero Joe foils happens 26 pages in. Enough time to be thinking that this is a strand or sideline, and I read on for a good few pages wondering when we were going to get back to the main story line. Amateurish handling of plot, and I wonder if we needed the first 25 pages of novel at all.
Several mentions are made of Garcia Marquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera. The characters are outspoken in their belief that anyone who believes this novel to best they had read has questionable taste. One comment like this is fine, adds some depth to character etc, two comments are unnecessary, and by the third time i was wondering what the author had against this vastly superior book in both plot and characters.
Unfortunately I didn't care about any of the characters, either. Not in the least. Fresia was shallow, despite the returning exile theme, which was never really tackled, losing ground to pseudo investigation which also never amounted to anything. She is described as a photographer, though takes only 2 photos in the story, of Joe, and a penguin. Having known a couple of photographers this failed to ring true. Photographers live through their lenses. Maybe she needed a career change. Joe was a boring stock professor character who even (ironically) has to dismiss the notion that he has a pipe and cardigan in his luggage. i didn't believe him. Roberto we are told is an intellectual but just comes across as flashy with no evidence to the former and Magdalena is imaginatively described as a gonk. I rest my case. The best bits of characterization are the football team and the characters in the poorer neighborhood.
Overall not an interesting read. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the other hand has written some cracking novels).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be better, 29 May 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
As others have written, the strength of this book lies in the evocation of life in Chile and the picture presented of a country still struggling to comes to terms with the post-Pinochet era. However, the narrative isn't strong enough to make this a great, or even a good book. The relationship between the two central characters isn't enough to hold the story together and there are a number of minor stories that flit along the edge of the novel but are never drawn in or adequately explored. I suppose in short, the passion centres around politics and ideas, but the characters aren't fully developed. (The strongest moment was a superb description of jealousy - I won't give it away. It showed what the author could do.) However, if I saw another novel by this author I would probably 'give it a go'. In the end it is the characters that save a novel but they just weren't strong enough to save this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilean Adventure, 29 Oct. 2008
By 
soffitta1 (Harwich, Essex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
Fresia is returning to her homeland of Chile, she left as a baby when her parents escaped and finally moved to England. On the plane, she meets Joe, a Scottish academic, who is returning to Chile.
Their stories are intertwined with the case of a missing young man, un desaparecido, last scene in a bar with his girlfriend.
I enjoyed this book which has Chile's recent past as a backdrop to a boy meets girl story. Nothing is as simple as it seems.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Mermaid and the Drunks, 29 Nov. 2012
By 
D Brookes (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
I picked this up in The Shipyard bookshop & cafe in Sheffield. The premise sounded great, but the summing up of the characters in the blurb is basically the gist of them in the whole - there's not much development really, even though they're extremely well described.

The story is so-so, taking second place to the great worldbuilding that Richards does. I really felt like I knew Chile from this book, but have to say that I wanted more of a plot to go with it.

A major problem is that from the first place, I got a very strong sense that Richards had been to Chile for a couple of weeks and was basically just writing about his own experiences, weaving a loose story out of it. He desperately wants the book to reflect how much research he's evidently done, but a good writer does weeks of research but only shows the relevant bits - not cram in a load of historical anecdotes for the sake of it.

It sounds like I'm slamming the book, which deserves a fair 3 1/2 stars, and isn't bad at all. Give it a read if you like the sound of the synopsis here on Amazon.

6.5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hyped up by Richard and Judy, 1 Aug. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
As an avid reader of almost anything! It is very rare that I cannot finish a book. I am always determined to give a book a fair chance, but I am afraid that I got half way through this book and could not take anymore! It could not hold my interest. I am sure many people will buy it, as it was a recommended read by richard and Judy, but very disappointing!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Worth it if you've been to Chile - otherwise bland, 9 Mar. 2010
By 
Helen Watson "DairyMilkQueen" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
Why did Mr Richards write this book?

Was it a holiday to Chile that did it? Must have been quite a long one to pick up the snippets of Chilean Spanish ("cachai?") and such accurate geographical detail on Santiago and its surrounding suburbs. So it's great if you've been there as you can revisit old haunts vicariously and sample bits of local colour you'd forgotten about. But if you haven't been I don't think this book would inspire you to go, which is a shame. Why? Well, Chile's landscape and its post-dictatorship confusion is well portrayed. And he does a good job at the current of menace which still lays lightly under Chilean society. But the characters are dull. They felt real enough, like a selection of people you might meet on holiday, but they had no literary presence. I didn't care about them.

The author tries too hard to mix political thriller (lack of real thrills) with an exotic setting. Maybe he got back to London, couldn't leave Chile behind and just fancied writing a book about it. And then had to come up with a plot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read twice, 30 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
Amazing reading all the negative comments. I have read this twice as I liked it so much. I thought the characters were well-drawn and the cultural aspects of Chile were fascinating. Very informative and most enjoyable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely readable, 21 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Mermaid and the Drunks (Paperback)
The fact that I read this book in the space of a day goes to prove what a hugely enjoyable read I found it. The descriptions of Chile, Santiago, the Chilean people and the cuisine set against the backdrop of the Chilean political and historical landscapes were highly evocative and very informative. As someone who had no previous knowledge of Chilean history or politics, I actually found it very interesting. The only thing that did disappoint me was the lack of development of the characters, some of the loose ends that never got tied up and unexplained backgrounds. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ben Richards.
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The Mermaid and the Drunks
The Mermaid and the Drunks by Ben Richards (Paperback - 3 Jun. 2004)
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