4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A wasted opportunity,
This review is from: A Small Death in Lisbon (Paperback)
Somewhere in this book there was a compelling story struggling to get out. Based partially on the little known history of Portugal's supposedly neutral role during World War 2, the factual elements are far more interesting than the story itself. The infamous Portuguese dictator Salazar's was a Nazi sympathiser, and at the beginning of the war supplied the German war effort. This fact sets the scene for the story, which involves a German secret agent setting up a smuggling operation - that involved the shipping of Wolfram to Germany for the manufacture of armaments. The story then moves forward to the future where a Lisbon police inspector is investigating the death of a teenage girl. Essentially the plot relies heavily on contrivances and coincidences to link the two stories together to create an unconvincing anti-climax.
Some of the sexual content is sadistic and an uncomfortable read at times given the age of the murdered girl. There are very few writers who can describe the act of sex without it coming across as tacky, tawdry and voyeuristic, less is always more in this case. Wilson has obviously researched Lisbon in great detail, but do we really need to know the characters are sitting on white plastic chairs? There is far too much description of the city and at times reads like a travelogue. Maybe research should have included reading Saramago and Pessoa who have written about Lisbon in sparing prose that evoke the great city far better than a paragraph of Wilson's writing.
Portugal's role during the second world war was duplicitious at times, with Salazar happy to supply Hitler's war effort and use Gestapo agent's to train Portugal's secret police - and on the other hand it had a duty to align itself with the Allies as the six hundred year old treaty with the British dictated. Approximately one million refugees escaped through Portugal, including thousand's of Jews who found safe haven around the world, at the same time millions of dollars of Nazi gold and money was moved through the banks and onto South America - now there's a truly compelling story waiting to be told and one this book would have been better of pursuing.
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Initial post: 21 Aug 2013, 16:50:42 BST
Peter K. Booker says:
I should really like to know where this figure comes from "approximately one million refugees". It is far more than I have seen elsewhere. Can you help?
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