Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Foreigners by Maxine Swann

Title: The Foreigners
Author: Maxine Swann
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Riverhead
Published: 2011
Pages: 272

Rating: 7 out of 10

In The Foreigners, a young American woman travels to Argentina to live abroad in the glamorous, exotic city of Buenos Aires. Upon her arrival, she is introduced to an eclectic cast of characters, including a gay stripper / medical student, a lustrous and vibrant Argentinian woman, an Austrian high society girl, and a wealthy older man. The book wanders through various experiences that the main character has with both these people and with the city itself.

I chose to request this book solely based off of its setting. Buenos Aires is a city that I desperately want to travel to someday. Though I am unable to say exactly how accurate the author was, I certainly got a sense of her version of the city. I fell in love with the setting - or, the distinct flavor and atmosphere of the setting - more than any other aspect of the book.

My second reason for enjoying this book was that it was strange, atypical, and at times a bit dark, especially farther toward the end, as Daisy and her friend Leonora actively work to slowly bring about the psychological ruin of a normal older man - seemingly for no reason other than that of a coolly observed experiment.

As much as I enjoyed it, the story was not without its flaws. The book did not have much focus, and the writing was average. The characters were interesting and memorable, but not extraordinary. In the beginning, Swann sets up a storyline about the main character coming to Buenos Aires to investigate the failing of the water system, but this plot is later discarded and forgotten. One characters' happy ending was a bit too neat and unconvincing. And yet somehow, I absolutely loved this book. Somehow, with all its quirks and strangeness and periods of tedium (for example, lingering on the main character fixing a broken appliance), it added up to something beautifully lyrical and realistic.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.