Verdict: While not a light read by any means, ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET by Ricardo Suárez-Gärtner nevertheless offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one family and their country.
ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET is an epic story, spanning three continents and as many centuries. It begins in 18th century, with miners from Saxony and Cornwall sailing across the Atlantic to work the South American gold mines for the Spanish Crown. Each chapter focuses on one of author’s colorful ancestors: soldiers and doctors, priests and scholars, local eccentrics and distinguished patricians. Their lives are revealed through copious notes drawn from personal diaries, old letters, musty registry books and archived newspapers.
But ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET isn’t just a genealogy of one family. This book is also a look into the turbulent past of Colombia and its history of colonialism, slavery, revolution and violent conflicts between country’s liberals and conservatives. Again and again, ancestors of Suárez-Gärtner find themselves caught in these events, frequently against their will. Some of them emerge triumphant, while others barely escape with their lives. Others perish from war, disease or simply bad luck.
This book is undoubtedly a labor of love, a staggering product of one man’s decades-long research into his origins. Suárez-Gärtner successfully conveys his joy and excitement as he learns new details about his ancestors. And yet, despite his enthusiasm – or precisely because of it – ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET is far from a light read. Suárez-Gärtner is so enamored with the data he gathered that he simply has to share it all with the reader. Because of that, his book occasionally feels like an endless, incomprehensible litany of names, locations and dates. Furthermore, reader unfamiliar with Columbian history will have a hard time understanding the full importance of people and events mentioned throughout the book.
ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET could be improved immensely with a brief historical primer about Columbian history – at least as much as it touches upon the lives described in the book. Another useful addition would be a map depicting various locations where the author’s ancestors used to live. As it stands, ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET by Ricardo Suárez-Gärtner is a fascinating, yet dense read. The amount of enjoyment reader draws from this book will depend directly upon the amount of work they’re willing to put into it.
While not a light read by any means, ENCOUNTERS AFTER THE SUNSET by Ricardo Suárez-Gärtner nevertheless offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one family and their country.
~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader