Every now and then you read a book that has little bits of magic in it, be they in the style or the story of it. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts is a book coated in big, dirty swathes of magic. Whilst being grandiose and intimate at the same time, this tale of love, corruption and cruelty in an unnamed South American state contains both belly-laughs and enough viciousness to make you weep for the world on virtually every page.
When you stop to consider that this was de Bernieres' debut effort you will start to weep for all the writers who never manage to demonstrate an ounce of this man's vision or ambition within their entire careers. If I'd ever gotten around to reading more than one short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez I have a feeling that I'd be drawing most favourable comparisons right now.
Minor quibbles (if only because no-one enjoys relentless positivity) are that there are an awful lot of Spanish slang words to get your head around, and an awful lot of characters to follow. But really, these things matter not a whit, as this is one bad-ass muchacho of a book.