The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch by Anne Enright


Word PressEliza Lynch was an Irish courtesan who met Francisco Solano Lopez, son of the president of Paraguay, in Paris in 1854, and became his mistress.  She went to Paraguay with him, they had several children together, he succeeded his father as president, and she became the country’s de facto “first lady”.  Paraguay in those days was a wealthy country, but it was ruined by the Paraguayan War, in which it was defeated by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and many historians claim that Eliza Lynch was responsible for Lopez deciding to start the war.  She followed him throughout the fighting. He was killed in battle and she was thrown out of the country.

This book doesn’t explain any of that very clearly or in very much detail, though.  It’s a short book, which jumps backwards and forwards in time, and a lot of it involves the musings of a (presumably) fictitious Scottish doctor who was also in Paraguay at the time.  It’s not a great historical novel, but, to be fair, it doesn’t really claim to be – it’s one of those dream-like, internal-angsty, books, the sort that reviewers in broadsheet newspapers make you feel as if you ought to enjoy but which, IMHO, aren’t a patch on “proper” historical novels!    Still, it’s got me interested in the subject matter, and I shall certainly be trawling the internet for more info about Eliza Lynch.

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