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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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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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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 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 28 April 2016
Gripping story with good plot and interesting characters. A vivid exploration of the American paranoia of illegal latin immigration seen from both sides in Southern California. Rather out of date now since immigrant flows have stabilized and even reversed but surprisingly topical with Trump and co ranting about building a giant wall which is presciently forecast in this book albeit on the smaller scale of one community rather than a whole country. Our morally challenged hero descends from a politically correct nature lover to a rabid racist. Very good read.
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on 8 December 2000
This is the first T.C.Boyle book I have read - I have now ordered "Water Music" and "Riven Rock". Boyle is a natural story teller - I finished the book in two evenings. Candido and Delayney are well drawn (not "cardboard cut-outs as claimed in areview) and sympathetic characters. I was wondering if "Candido" was named after Voltaire's "Candide" - as every misfortune seems to befall him, yet he still retains his faith in God. Also his wife America - is her name symbolic? (The German translation is entitled "America"). The book does not hold back its punches - many events are cruel and there is no relief from the contrast between the comfortable and materialistic "gringos" and the poor, doomed Mexicans ("wetbacks") in search of a future. One US reader sees the ending as "unfinished" or a "cop out" - but I see it more as a symbolic statement of "we are all in this world together". The influence of Evelyn Waugh is certainly there but, whereas Waugh's cruelty would indicate a bitter and misanthropic character in the author, Boyle's humour seems to derive from a well intended but "I see the world as it really is" disposition.
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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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on 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 29 June 2003
Read this for the BBC Bookclub July 2003, and not a book I knew of, or would have considered otherwise. I could not put it down!! A super read, giving two contrasting points-of-view.
Candido and America, the homeless, workless Mexican immigrants living in destitution in the canyon, are contrasted with Delaney and his family, the Americans living in luxury but with a fortress mentality, above the canyon.
Not an issue I had thought about, but so relevant even in Britain with the perceived threat from 'asylum-seekers' and 'illegal immigrants', and how all societies react to outsiders.
I felt for the Mexicans as the underdogs, but also for the Americans as their way of life is threatened.
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on 15 September 1999
Boyle creates a character in Delaney who sounds very much like himself - a liberal from New York moved to a suburb of Los Angeles. Delaney is a nature writer, and at times the descriptions become a bit too much, but they are always well written and usually captivating.
If you care, read it and see how your views can be changed by others or by circumstance. If you don't, read it for an insight into the plight of those who travel from Mexico in search of a better life.
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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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