Cover Image: Breakfast in Bogota

Breakfast in Bogota

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

It's 1947 and in the aftermath of war, British architect Luke Vosey has taken a commission in Bogotá, Colombia, in an effort to restore his professional reputation and to ease his grief over the loss of his lover, Catherine. As the Tudor Revival style residential project La Merced draws to a satisfying, successful conclusion, a few new people come into Luke's life. First there's the affable journalist, Camilo Osorio, who's been tasked with writing a feature on the British architect for his newspaper. He in turn introduces his friend Felisa to Luke, thinking she might be suitable for the draftsman role that Luke is struggling to fill. Finally, Luke's boss at Anglo-Colombian Oil introduces him to Gabriel Osorio, a powerful figure in Bogotá, who works for the foreign ministry, and might just be the source of Luke's next commission. And yes - Camilo and Gabriel are related, but estranged.

There's a mystery, a love triangle and political tension to burn!

The big mystery is why Luke's reputation needs saving. He had been enjoying a rapid rise to success and fame before the war - his name jostled alongside Eames, Lloyd Wright and Mies on the pages of the leading architecture and design magazines. For the first half of the book Young alludes to something dark, and Luke is tormented by more than just Catherine's death, seeking solace in the arms of prostitutes or at the bottom of a whisky bottle. But I have to say, by the time Luke's big secret was revealed, I didn't care any more. I hadn't warmed to him by then, and knowing the cause of his pain didn't make any difference to me.

That's just one reason why I thought this novel, which had a lot of potential, missed the mark with me. Other readers may well have a very different reading experience.

One thing I really liked about it was the focus on architecture in Bogotá. I only visited the city once, very briefly, but my lasting impression of the neighbourhood where I was staying was the incongruousness of the building styles (which is why I specifically mentioned the style of Luke's residential project). Not at all what I expected! Furthermore, as the story is set immediately before the civil war, some of the famous grand old buildings of the early 20th century, which no longer exist, are referred to as landmarks or locations in the story, so I spent quite a bit of time searching Google images to help visualise them.

All in all I thought this was an ok read, but I had hoped for more.
Was this review helpful?
what a riveting portrayal of Bogota. I was drawn into the dynamics of this city, as well as Lukes own story, and was touched by the overall theme of this book and I felt drawn into this city and timeframe.
Was this review helpful?
A story about the city of Bogota and its history. A novel where the setting is key and very apparent throughout. You see it through the eyes of an architect which is even more fascinating. Parks, buildings, even oil refineries take on a new gleam.

The architect, British man Luke Vosey has made the capital his home. He is fearful of war and turmoil in the city, and whilst wanting to rebuild his life which has recently caved in, he also wants to rebuild the city. He meets a couple of people who might be able to help, but it’s here that we see what the city means to many people. Those with money want to keep it and those without want to have it. Both are willing to do what they can to get it. Sadly we also see the level of poverty in the various barrios and how the poorest locals are abused and used or at best, ignored. The builders and architects with money have a vision and if these poor slums get in the way so be it.

There’s no doubt that this was a complicated time in the country as a whole. The civil war, political games and turmoil in general is well evoked. I did think the characterisation and romance part of the story let it down for me. It seemed weak in comparison to the strength of the setting and the political and historical landscape.

The overall themes are ones of reconstruction, rebuilding in every sense of the word. This was a really interesting premise and well done for the most part but the romance and characters weren’t of the same calibre for me. Bogota was the real star of the show.

It makes you think of how we build a city, new futures, who we crush to get ahead and how money and power corrupts absolutely. If a city changes rapidly is this progress? Progress for everyone? 

The history and culture of the city was what really made this stand out for me. The civil war, murder of a high-ranking figure, suspicion and sense of foreboding and chaos paint a shameful picture of a city trying to keep its head above water.

Bogota has many sides to it and I have walked the streets via this novel through a fascinating if not tumultuous time. No time for breakfast for me ironically! Infact I would describe this novel as offering breakfast, lunch and tea all in one!
Was this review helpful?
I was excited to read a book post WWII set in Bogota. The main character, Luke Vosey, is starting over after a failure during the war and the loss of Caroline. He wants to redeem himself with an architectural project. I felt the book started strong; however, I soon found 5he book very slow. I actually put it down and picked it up several times. It just did not work for me. 2.5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and Unbound for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Breakfast in Bogota is set in post WWII Bogota, Colombia right before the countries civil war. This is a story driven by characters and not plot. The main character, Luke Vosey, is a British architect who has come to Bogota to escape his war past. He is working at finishing up his first commission in Bogota and has now been offered a new one by the government as a plan to modernize the capital as part of the Pan-American conference.

Luke meets a journalist, Camilo Osorio, who does a profile on him and introduces Luke to his new draftsman/draftswoman, Felisa.  Around the same time Luke becomes acquainted with Osorio's estranged uncle. The story is a love story set during the formation of a revolution. The issue I had with the book is that I did not necessarily care for any of the characters.. I was not drawn to them enough to care about what happened to them. 

That being said the book was not bad and if you are a fan of character based stories you might enjoy this one.
Was this review helpful?
‘’The night was crisp and filled with the sound of a thousand crickets and above this, an indigo sky purpled the horizon. Here, it might be possible to forget the city with its cramped streets and wild order.’’

1947, Bogotá. Luke Vosey, a British architect, has decided to make the Colombian capital his new home. Haunted by the memories of a woman and wounded by the implications of war, he dedicates himself to the vision of building a new city. Things become complicated when he meets Camillo and Felicia, two rather suspicious businessmen and a syndicate of fanatics. 

The first pages are striking. Helen Young definitely knows how to create the proper atmosphere. The setting in the lively capital is vivid, tempting, at times ferocious. The extensive research is evident but the effect is subtle and flowing through beautiful prose. The readers find themselves in Bogotá through the pages and the themes are as interesting as the background of the story. There is unrest, danger. Money dictates everything while the locals are ignored and abused. Redesigning a city is one thing, destroying the citizens’ properties in the name of modernization of a dubious kind is quite unethical. 

Luke’s character demonstrates the difficult task of finding the balance between his upbringing and the acceptance of a stranger, along with the shadow of the past at a time when change is mandatory. Themes of creativity, reconstruction (literal and metaphorical), and a somewhat controversial notion of progress. Excellent depiction of the complicated era and the political and social circumstances in a country of great antitheses, rich culture and beauty. 

Unfortunately my positive comments will have to end here…

The dialogue is naive and certain moments are cheesy, romantic to the point of stupidity and melodramatic. For example:

-You called me Catherine again.
-Did I?
-She has quite a hold over you.
                                                            And…
-How do you feel, Luke?
-By the look on your face, terrible.
- I was so worried.

I also counted 8355 ‘’please’’, 5655 ‘’Oh, no!’’ and 3454 ‘’it’s okay.’’
Thank you but no.

Furthermore, certain actions that could have been interesting were simplified by the characters, especially Felisa. Well, I can’t say that she is an exemplary female character given the standards of our times. She showed much potential in the beginning but was soon reduced to the role of the ‘’love interest’’ - I hate those with a vengeance- and acted like the typical melodramatic heroine that is also a scientist, activist, magnanimous and damn clever. Again, no. I enjoyed the socio-political references and the depiction of Luke’s troubled personality but when the plot sailed away from these themes for the sake of romance, I was bored. Personal preference, obviously, but the ‘’will they/won’t they’’ affairs are of no interest to me, especially when they are copies of soap operas. Catherine’s subplot also became redundant and her juxtaposition to Felisa was tiring and unispired. 

These (strictly personal) impressions along with the fact that the plot lost its power beyond the 60% mark makes me consider this a novel that has much potential to be widely loved but for me, it ended up being average. Too average, in fact. A novel with brilliant setting and beautiful prose, hurt by simplistic, sappy dialogue, weak characters, and an extremely predictable and naive closure. 

Many thanks to Unbound, NetGalley and the PigeonholeHQ for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/
Was this review helpful?
Breakfast in Bogota was a semi-enjoyable novel, but I could never quite grasp or understand the main characters motives and I never felt invested in the storyline.  After reading the description of this novel, I really wanted to read it, but it just fell flat.  While having said that, I became more interested in reading about Bogota and her tumultuous history. 

I received an advance copy of this novel and all opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Great read. The author wrote a story that was interesting and moved at a pace that kept me engaged. The characters were easy to invest in.
Was this review helpful?
Set in the 1940’s Columbia, an English Architect ends up in Bogatá after being shunned in the UK for what he thought were moral actions that actually cost lives during The Great War. From famous architect to a failed one, work on project “La Merced” got him noticed once more, and a request to help rebuild the city centre became less of a request and more of a no choice option. A city run by the wealthy, and communist sympathisers could disappear. 

Carrying the trauma of action during the war, and his past love for a woman called Catherine, Luke seeks comfort in a prostitute whom looks just like Catherine, and makes friends in the form of a journalist, Camilo, and his friend Felisa. The lives of the Camilo and Felisa become unveiled, and throughout, a suggestive undertone of things not being quite right, until the extent of the city control and corruption comes to light. 

The idea for the story was interesting, a snap shot of an architects life in the 1940’s running away from the past, which continually resurfaces, with an opportunity to start again, to rebuild, but it turns out not to be so straight forward or clean cut, it comes with a price and with control, but is not anything new and untold about the region. Lust, love, trauma, action, betrayal, and friendship. The ending did seem a bit clichéd.
Was this review helpful?
Loved it, I was immediately drawn into Luke's redemptive story and his plight of accepting the mistakes of his past so that he can embrace his future
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed reading this book until the last couple of chapters when the story took a peculiar and unexpected turn, and then just ended without any real tying up of loose ends. 

The book is set in Bogota, Colombia in 1947 at a politically unstable time. 

We follow British architect Luke Vosey who has come to Bogota to work on a project. We are fed snippets of his past which include the love of his life Catherine, and a trial concerning his actions during the war. He hopes he can start a new life here although his new project is led by some dubious characters with scant regard for the people of the city. 

He seeks solace in the arms of a prostitute who resembles Catherine, a young journalist with powerful connections and a proto-communist Felisa. He is able to a certain extent leave Catherine behind as his love develops for Felisa but everything is not as straightforward as it seems. 

The book was well written, but I felt the ending was unlikely and for me did not flow well from the rest of the story.
Was this review helpful?
The first chapter takes place in a brothel, with some mildly graphic descriptions (disclaimer for highly sensitive persons, like myself).  To be honest, I almost put the book down, fearful it would be full of brothel descriptions throughout.  However, the author draws in the relativity of the scene, as the protagonist searches for his lost love.  I liked hearing about the life and community of a country so very different from my own.
Was this review helpful?
This was a beautiful tragic novel about life in Colombia and what happens there. I was engrossed by this book. 

I would like to thank netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
Was this review helpful?