Book reviews

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.  And Other Stories, 2011.

This 70-page novella is a “light” read in length and language, but its content is anything but lighthearted, despite the fact that its narrator is a child.

As far as I know, this isn’t a very well-know book, but it totally deserves the spotlight.  Translated from Spanish by the British indie publisher And Other Stories, Down the Rabbit Hole is a brilliantly crafted first novel.  It is narrated by Tochtli, the son of a Mexican drug lord who lives in a palace and knows only “fourteen or fifteen people.”  The plot is largely driven by Tochtli’s dream of getting a Liberian pigmy hippopotamus to add to their existing menagerie of tropical birds, wild cats, and other exotic animals.  While Tochtli tells his story, he inadvertently paints a picture through his naive, innocent descriptions of the terrible and secretive dealings of the head of a Mexican drug cartel.

This novel is unnerving and will pull at heartstrings you never knew you had.  It’s definitely not for everyone, because the content and the way it’s presented through a child’s voice raises some sticky moral questions which some readers might not be comfortable with.  But if you’re like me, and enjoy literary discomfort for the sake of art and its message, then pick up this book right now.

It was a bit short and underdeveloped, but upon closer inspection, this is how a child would tell a story, so I can’t really criticize the novel for that.  I guess I just wanted it to be longer because it was so well done.

4 stars, simply because I wanted more.



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