Monday, January 7, 2008

Useful Fools by C. A. Schmidt

Alonso is 15 years old and completely in love with Rosa, the daughter of the doctor who works at the public health clinic in his town. He looks forward to every Saturday when they both assist at the clinic. However, both their lives are irrevocably changed when Alonso’s mother is assassinated by revolutionary forces. Alonso must flee with his remaining family to another town to escape further persecution from the revolution.

Yet even in a new town Alonso is not safe. He gets into contact with his best friend Rodolfo who has suffered at the hand of the Peruvian police. Because of his losses due to police brutality, Rodolfo has become enamored with the revolution and encourages Alonso to join him fight against the government. Alonso soon finds himself in a serious moral dilemma. Does he turn his back on his friend who has helped out his family? Does he join the people who assassinated his mother? Or should he do nothing and become a potential victim again?


The Book has several strengths - chief among them the characters of Alonso and Rosa. They were compelling characters that helped to keep the story moving along. Their romance was not only very sweet, but also helps to set up the political and cultural climate of class divisions and revolution. The story shifts back and forth from their perspectives. This adds an element of suspense, especially as their lives become increasingly endangered due to rising violence. Readers will want to finish the book if only to see how their relationship is resolved.


Regrettably, there were also some weaknesses. I found it hard to believe that Alonso would be swept up in the movement and join the revolutionary group that had just murdered his mother. Especially since the revolutionaries only conversed in tired clich├ęs and unconvincing rhetoric. It was also somewhat difficult to understand the political and cultural landscape of Peru. Useful Fools is set during a time of incredible political unrest when average people were caught between a corrupt police force and revolutionary terrorists. According to the author’s note nearly 70,000 Peruvians died during this time period. Unfortunately, this author’s note comes at the end of the story. Readers who are unfamiliar with Peru’s political history might find it difficult to grasp the various political background necessary to fully understand the story. It would have been much more helpful to have this note at the beginning of the novel to familiarize readers before they began reading.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

bad book, do not read!! The main plot starts to happen near the end. This book would stretch 2 pages to 20!!!

Anonymous said...

AMAZING BOOK! So powerful yet contains a complex love story which is entwined with the political struggles of the people of Peru. Have to read the climax of the plot is in the middle not the end! THE AUTHOR TAKES THE TIME TO show how the plot rose to the climax! this article is a little biased. i mean who hasnt heard of guerilla wars! have u people been living under rocks. I mean no rewards comes without conflict or struggle!

Anonymous said...

AMAZING BOOK! So powerful yet contains a complex love story which is entwined with the political struggles of the people of Peru. Have to read the climax of the plot is in the middle not the end! THE AUTHOR TAKES THE TIME TO show how the plot rose to the climax! this article is a little biased. i mean who hasnt heard of guerilla wars! have u people been living under rocks. I mean no rewards comes without conflict or struggle!

Anonymous said...

It was a fantastic book!!!I liked it very much except the end.I didn't want them to separate!!It was wonderful,though.