Good Offices by Evelio Rosero

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Good Offices by Evelio Rosero

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: For Hispanic riffs on corrupt dipsomaniac priests, this is a lot too near the banal than the Bunuel. Worth chancing if ribaldry about drunken priests being lauded is your thing, but this failed to entertain as it apparently meant to.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 144 Date: September 2011
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-0857050670

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Here is a church in Bogota nobody seems to want to leave. In part one it is a large group of the elderly, given a weekly, tasteless meal from the charitable funds, but bitterly refusing to quit the place, making our main character Tancredo fear for his passivity. In part two it is the congregation, as a rare need for a stand-in priest seems to be a blessing. And in part three it is that priest himself, stuck among the household of Tancredo, the girl who loves him, and chorus of three weird old women.

This, the blurb tells us, is a comic satire on the church, from an award-winning Colombian author, but this is one of those times we need that detail. It certainly didn't humour me. I saw the absurd, patently, with a trace of magical realism in the power of the new priest's voice, the domestic witchcraft and finishing each other's sentences of the old women. The fact the girl tries to have sex with Tancredo, a hulky hunk of hunchback, in the most unlikely places, is neither here nor there.

There is definitely imagination here, enough so I never regretted the short reading time, but there are conversations regarding the charity lunches that go on too long to little point, and an itemising of the mass that did the same for this atheist reviewer.

Check before you become enthralled by something, the parable tells us, but when the blurb mentions "startling satire" I think it should be directed at publishers primarily. There are interesting characters, warm and enjoyable happenings and a fine hand with the odd, but to leave mediocrity behind the uncanny should have been heightened tenfold, alongside the alleged humour.

I must still thank the publishers at Quercus for my review copy.

The perils of religion could be seen more profoundly and in a more distinguished manner recently in Damned by Chuck Palahniuk.

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