Friday, December 4, 2009

Yankee Invasion by Ignacio Solares

Yankee Invasion cover

Yankee Invasion:
A Novel of Mexico City
by Ignacio Solares
by Timothy G. Compton

Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Scarletta Press
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
The War Americans Never Remember and Mexicans Can’t Forget

In 1847, Mexico loses half its territory to the United States. Abelardo is haunted by his experiences during the invasion, especially a violent and brutal act he committed the day the American flag was raised over the capital. Persuaded by his wife's belief that writing about his part is cathartic, the older Abelardo explores the events that happened to and around him during the Mexican-American War, including the loss of his fiancee Isabel, whose mother he secretly desired.

Yankee Invasion was set in Mexico City during 1847 and 1899. It was styled like a journal written by a Mexican, a 77-year-old Abelardo, about events that happened to him in 1847 leading up to the occupation of Mexico City and during the occupation. Interspersed in the story were accounts of his current interactions with his wife on the subject of his writings and her views on the war.

I really enjoyed the novel, and I checked three times to make sure it really was a novel rather than a memoir since the people and events in the book seemed realistic and like what a person really would write in a journal. The book felt well-researched, but I don't know enough about the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 to know how accurate the details were.

The novel read like the (very interesting) ramblings of a grandpa to children who didn't live through the events and didn't know much about the history surrounding it. In the first part, especially, chunks of history were inserted into the narration as Abelardo considered things like which event might have been the true origin of the war. As the novel went on, there were fewer breaks in the action.

While the 25-year-old Abelardo in 1847 was very anti-American, the hindsight lent by the older Abelardo writing the account buffered this, showing each person to be villain or not based on his own actions rather than on his national identity. Also, the other characters expressed a variety of different viewpoints about America and the Church (see below), often opinions that Abelardo didn't agreed with. As long as American readers are willing to admit that America is not perfect and recognizes that people in a country being invaded might not be too happy with Americans, they won't feel affronted or attacked by the views in the novel.

I wouldn't call this a Christian novel even though God was mentioned fairly often. While Abelardo and most of the other characters were Catholic Christians, Abelardo had little nice to say about the Church (Catholic or Protestant). And when the characters do get philosophical, it tended toward the mystical rather than beliefs held in traditional Christianity.

There was a minor amount of bad language. There was some (unmarried) sex, but it wasn't graphically described. I'd recommend this novel to those who enjoy history and historical novels...or who enjoy novels about slightly insane men who manage to bring a lot of grief on themselves in their personal lives.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The cathedral bells rang out like golden bubbles in the intense air on that morning of September 14, 1847, welcoming the Yankees who had just invaded our city. Since the Church had become such a cowardly bureaucracy, what else were we to expect? Christ seemed to have left it altogether. The indignation of the people exploded when a Yankee soldier started to raise his flag over the National Palace. Our hearts skipped a beat--the entire world skipped a beat. Enraged shouting and nasty insults mixed with muffled moans and sobs, although plenty of people chose to put their heads in the sand and not look at all. There it was in the clear morning air--what we had feared so much for months--the fluttering Stars and Stripes, symbol of the despicable power which intended to subjugate all nations and cultures of the nineteenth century.

Ironically, we inhabitants of the city were witnessing this fateful scene in the main plaza, where four years earlier Santa Anna had ordered a grand monument to our independence to be erected, of which only the base was now constructed.

However, the Yankee soldier who was raising the flag failed to complete his task, because a very accurate bullet saw his body collapse like a marionette whose strings have been cut, and the American flag barely at half mast, the multitude let out a prolonged howl and attacked the Yankee soldiers who were on both foot and horseback near the doors of the Palace. Their weapons couldn't protect them for long because the masses fell upon them in growing waves, however much they managed to shoot down some of us.

"Death to the Yankees!"

My entire being was filled with uncertainty. Fear overcame me and I started running to get out of the plaza, bent over, out of joint, my head in a fog, thinking as if in a trance that one of those bullets which I heard intermittently was destined for me, that I was running right toward it and could do nothing about it. Or that one of those glimmering knives or bayonets was waiting to put an end to my shameful actions. Many times I tripped, slipped, was pushed, fell, got up and caught my balance. I felt keenly ridiculous to flee that way, so clumsy and unable to stay on my feet.

One time when I fell I managed to see-inside a cloud of dust--a group of women scratching, biting, stripping and spitting on a Yankee soldier, who seemed in shock and writhed as if in convulsions.

Another soldier seemed already dead. A sticky white substance oozed between the curls of his blond hair, and his face--a brutal face which death had not yet altered--was covered in blood. A pair of poor wretched people stared at him in fascination, as if he were still warm prey. They nudged him with their feet again and again, a bit fearful he might come back to life and arise.

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