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2.0 out of 5 stars The loves and treasures of Gian' Battista, 2 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard (Kindle Edition)
My second encounter with Joseph Conrad after Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard (as the title suggests) contains many of the themes of the more renowned work: the sea, foreign climes. However, Nostromo is more of a tale of love, haunted pasts, duty and revolution.

The action take place in the small coastal town of Sulaco in the republic of Costaguana, which in my mind I'd placed somewhere along the Caribbean coast of South America. The town is little more than minor port until Charles Gould reawakens his grandfather's silver mine, which looms over the town both physically and spiritually and brings riches, employment along with treatment treachery and death.

While Charles Gould and his wife Emilia, the first lady of Sulaco, May be the town's principal players they are supported by a cast wandering Europeans, first among them is Gian' Battista, the captain of the dockside labourers and all round man for all seasons. Battista is the binding that brings together all strands of the story - the mine, the business of the port, the links with European homeland and the mastering of the new frontier and its people.

The fortunes of the characters follow the fortunes of the silver mine, which brings prosperity and fortune but also jealousy, and notoriety. The plot follows the contours of a mountain, climbing the steep slope of development, bringing railways, telegraphs and riches before plummeting down into chaos and uncertainty.

There is much to praise about this book. The atmosphere of oppressive climates and political unrest, the early days of European settlement and modernisation. There is also, to my mind at least, something lacking. Gian Battista is the constant, and his fortunes reflect the flow of the narrative, but the development of the wider cast never really materialises. On many occasions the reader is given a quick recap of how characters have been affected by events before the disappear, sometimes literally, into the sunset.

Nostromo is a good yarn, if not thoroughly involving - a made for TV if not a Hollywood blockbuster. The atmospherics are excellent and readers may find themselves mopping their brow, but the character involvement that one might get in a similar story by, for example, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is lacking.

For readers looking to sample Joseph Conrad I'd recommend Heart of Darkness. It has the same oppressive backdrop with an added menace.
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