- Book: Villa Pacifica
- Location: Ecuador
- Author: Kapka Kassabova
My review opens with a comment from the Villa Pacifica guestbook: “Everyone who stays here writes something down. Those who don’t, either never arrived, or never left”
I had been eyeing this title up for a little while but there seem to be only a few copies on sale. Anyway, suffice it to say, I did eventually track one down and it is quite an unusual novel.
Ute is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, no less) and arrives at the fairly luxurious Villa Pacifica with her husband Jerry. She is writing a travel guide and that is her main reason for being in the area. Jerry starts to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and settles into a writing routine. She, on the other hand, is ready to explore and make her notes. Yet, she feels, something is not quite right.
She wanders along the shore to Puerto Seco (meaning dry port), the local village which is dead, save for the local Cafe El Fin del Mundo – the end of the earth. Arid, end of the world it certainly is…. these names all filter into her subconscious and underline her unease about the area.
At Villa Pacifica on the other side of the estuary is an animal sanctuary, where wild animals are given a home after being trafficked. It almost feels like a metaphor, the caged animals are almost like the caged people at the Villa Pacifica. Predator Max, from the USA, is someone who is larger than life and soon has the residents side stepping and avoiding him. His japes drag others into life-threatening situations.
Ute suffers from outbreaks of eczema, it seems that this affliction is an outward expression of her internal emotional turmoil. Finally, El Niño hits and this is a storm that is well known for affecting the mental equilibrium of the people caught in its path….
This is a novel that certainly has something about it. The author’s observational skills are good and she captures nuances. The story keeps a good pace and takes the reader on a journey through South America but also through Ute’s psyche where reality and dreamland cross over.