The Lives of Eliza Lynch: Scandal and Courage by Michael Lillis and Ronan Fanning. Hardcover book published by Gill & Macmillan 2009, 298 pages with a few colour and black and white illustrations and photographs.
So who was Eliza Lynch? Well, originally she was Irish, but was living (and loving) in France when she met a Paraguayan guy called Francisco Solano López who ended up taking over from his dad as President of Paraguay (1862 to 1870). Eliza went to Paraguay and was the mistress of this Mr Lopez and then later became the de facto first lady of Paraguay upon his attaining the presidency (they didn’t marry as she was already married). As president, Francisco got Paraguay involved in a war known as the War of the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) which ended up killing a lot of people including most of Paraguay’s male population (90%)… and Francisco. … and what did Eliza have to do with all of this? Well, there’s a lot of debate as to how much influence this lady had on Francisco and I guess that’s some of what this book is all about.
Here is Australia most of us… myself included… or maybe only myself… are not all that familiar with the War of the Triple Alliance, Francisco Solano López or Eliza Lynch. In Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, I assume people are a little more au fait with this War, the President and Eliza. Which is why this book is of interest. From my experience of bookselling over the years, most books on South American history are a hard sell, at least on the interwebs here in Australia, they are hard to sell. I'm sure that if the book was in the right language (Spanish or Portuguese) and in South America this would not be the case. Looking at the subject matter though, a book such as this shouldn’t be a hard sell (?). Then again, there are lots of book that I think shouldn’t be as hard a sell as they are and maybe all of this is just a grumpy booksellers (that’s me) venting at the difficulty of selling certain titles. I guess the truth is that a book like this is difficult as there appears to be very little interest here in the history of Paraguay unless there is possibly some sort of Australian connection… (to be continued).