I'm not sure why I picked up The News From Paraguay. It sounded familiar among the piles of unfamiliar books at the pre-owned bookstore in Davis Square. And even as I was reading it, I was reminded of Daughter of Fortune, even though I couldn't remember any of the particulars of that book. From that one, I only remember the plan of a Chilean to make his fortune by shipping blocks of ice from the southern tip of Chile to market in San Francisco. From The News From Paraguay, I'm bound to remember only the beloved horse, Mathilde.
Ella travels with the second guy to pick her up, an aspiring heir to the presidency, to his home in Paraguay, where they never marry but she bears him five children and two more who don't survive. While Franco is busy misleading the country into wars, Ella is busy riding her horse, Mathilde. Franco pretty much goes insane, torturing and killing his own soldiers, and Ella rides Mathilde. At one point the horse is sick, and she prays (a rare occurrence), and Mathilde recovers.
I don't mean to say that the book is boring. It certainly isn't! There's amputation, syphilis, affairs, and betrayal. Franco is consistently a bad leader. At one point he is offered a reasonable truce with the THREE countries he is fighting, but rejects it on the stipulation that he is to leave the country. Paraguay is HIS country, and ain't nobody gonna take it from him, dammit.