An exquisitely written historical epic, Anne Enright’s third novel is based on the true story of the beautiful Irishwoman Eliza Lynch, who, in the 1860s, became, briefly, the richest woman in the world. The book opens in Paris, with Eliza in bed with Francisco Solano Lopez – heir to the untold wealth of Paraguay. The fruit of their congress will be extraordinary, and will send her across the Atlantic: leading a caravan of servants, clothes, jewellery and champagne on the regal voyage down the River Parana to claim her glorious future in Asuncion.
What she finds is a narrow, provincial town: a decayed nobility, contemptuous of this Irish courtesan, and the oppressed poor, yearning for self-determination. Together with Lopez, Eliza embarks on a series of disastrous wars that define the nation and demonstrate her power. She seems to carry all before her, until the moment when she discovers the true sweep of her own cruelty.
With the lavish imaginative richness of Marquez and the crazed panoramic sweep of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch is a bold and brilliantly achieved novel about sex, beauty and, corruption and the end of the old world.