Nostromo: for those whose hearts sink at the thought…

Here’s a thing. My friend and I had agreed to read Nostromo for book club. Neither of us wanted to. We decided to tag team. We split the book into chunks, and the rule was to read and send summary, by text, within 72 hours. This is what happened *contains spoilers*.

1.1: Sulaco Bay introduced. Rumour of treasure in the mountain. Across the bay are the Isabels – three islets. 1.2: OSN introduced – responsible organisation for trade that ‘never make mistakes’. Nostromo introduced – feared seaman, railwayman. 1.3: Nostromo staying at Casa Viola. Some riot occurs, which we understand through the limited view of the people in Casa Viola.

1.4: Describes the family running Casa Viola, but mostly the military history of old Georgio and his esteem for Garibaldi (the man not the biscuit). 1.5: Local politics of various people trying to get a railway built. 1.6: Some backstory for Charles Gould. Father forced to buy deelict silver mine so Government could keep charging him. Loses perspective, goes on about vampires, dies. Son thinks he should make something of the mine instead so returns from Europe with promisingly nice wife and gets investors. Too much description of furniture!

1.7: Mrs Gould admired as unfatiguable (as good as one of their own). Charles pays bribes and understand listening to ‘deplorable balderdash’ is also a cost he must bear. 1.8: The mine is descrobed as a stabilizing influence upon the region. Don Pepe knows all that goes on. The treasure mountain moans (?). Details about the protection and governance of the mine. Ha – and all that background for Sir John to turn up wanting Gould’s favour. Nostromo is a git. 2.1: Don Jose Avellanos survived the fifty year war. His daughter now cares for him. A vote goes in his favour to redeem the national credit.

2.2: ‘Antonia could hold her own in a discussion with two or three men at a time’. So consensus was that it would take a foreigner to marry her! 2.3: Enter faux-whimsical Parisian cynic Decoud. Amused to be invited as Executive Member of small arms committee held behind war minister Montero’s back. Stays on as propaganda journalist. 2.4: Parade. 2.5: I think Decoud proposes, but she ‘seduced his attention’ and they just move right along to talking about politics! He then antagonises the priest, who does seem like a proper mardy-arse. A lot of beards described in these sections. Possibly allusions to character??

2.6: Nostromo (Capataz de Cargadores) tells Decoud of a rumour that a two-day battle has seen the Ribierists defeated, so he tells Mrs Gould who is anxious. [Aside, I gotta say I don’t trust that phantom Nostromo. I’ve only read a few paragraphs about him]. Decoud implores Mrs Gould not to speak to Charley, an idealist. He suggests not all is as it appears at mine. He motions an uprising, a separation of Sulaco from west. He says his motive is love. The scene is set for an ambush on the silver coming down the mountain the following day, that perchance might be enacted by the robber Hernadez. 2.7: A fracas. Decoud writes about the uprising to his sister, entrusting the pocketbook to Mrs Gould before taking a boat with Nostromo (the shipment of silver as cargo). They float and row the boat in the dead of night and finally get the lighter to the Isabels, where they hope to hide. Cliffhanger: they think they are alone but hear sobbing, and eventually clasp hands on the body of a man – asleep, in a faint, or dead. [Decoud claims that someone’s argument fails because he has a crap beard. Thought you might like that detail].

2.8: So the guy is just some cowardly merchant (Hirsch) playing dead. A government steamer is hijacked by Sotillo, the commandant of Esmerelda and his drunken soldiers and tries to find them in the dark. Ridiculous whispered argument about whose fault it was that they hadn’t thrown Hirsch overboard. Steamer hits lighter. H hangs on to anchor and gets dragged off with steamer! Lighter makes it to island, they bury the silver then Nostromo sails back but leaves Decoud by agreement, sinks boat and swims to shore. D is satisfied that N is ‘made incorruptible by his own vanity’. 3.1: Various members of Gould’s posse head out of town and to the mine for safety. Gould still cool as a cucumber. The doctor and chief engineer chat about everyone’s character at Casa Viola as Teresa Viola is waiting to die. 3.2: Captain Mitchell waits up in the harbour to reflect on his part in the silver heist. Sotillo returns and they capture him and lock him up in the custom house. He is more concerned that they have pinched his watch. Dr, Chief Engineer and G. Viola also nabbed. Shock killed Teresa. Hirsch has garbled story of lighter, so they think it sank and N is dead, though Sotillo doesn’t want to believe this.

3.3: Pfft. Captives released by Sotillo. Some skirmishes described, but unclear when they happened of who involved. Don Jose dead (possibly?) Gould makes a pact with some representative of Hernandez, who the Ribierists made General. 3.4: Don Juste is shaved – “Gould could not help noting the revealed ineptitude in the aspect of the man”. Banal back story for Dr Monygham. He respects Mrs G. He visits Casa Gould where wounded are recovering, to tell them Decoud & Nostromo are dead. The bells sound & everyone at the house goes mad fearing massacre. 3.5: Montero arrives. He’s narked cos he wants a soft bed and a kip.

3.6: Don Pepe talks to Father Roman about Montero’s attempts to negotiate with him for surrender of the mine. Pepe is proud that everyone knows he will destroy it if need be, but then starts getting excited about the idea of leading an attack from the mine and leaving the priest to blow it up! 3.7: Gould refuses to show any deference to Montero and states that the mine or any investment would die with him. This works. The doctor goes to find Sotillo and resigns himself to heroic duplicitous death. 3.8: Nostromo wakes up and has an identity crisis with no one to respect or admire him (and a vulture starring him out) so feels betrayed. Bumps into the doc at the Custom House where they discover Hirsch tortured and shot dead. Doc is too caught up planning to send N as a messenger to the mine to notice he is crushing his ego and fuelling sense of being used even more. N still lets him believe that the treasure is sunk.

3.9: Sotillo feigns the flu so he v doesn’t have to deal with Montero’s emissary. Then he tortures and shoots Hirsch. Doc still being dunderhead about Nostromo. Doc decides to tell Sotillo treasure is on great Isabel to buy some time; Nostromo deflects attention from docs uncanny guess, suggests he tell S the treasure is sunk in the bay. N makes his way to Casa Viola, where the old man has been sitting since his release. 3.10: Flash forward – Mitchell parades around Sulaco with visitors and tells of the upshot of the conflict. Gould was taken out to be shot, but was saved. Sotillo bought the story about the silver, so didn’t join forces with Montero. Doc was almost hanged on the boat searching for the silver, but it is come upon by Barrios from the sea, so he’s also lucky. Nostromo is the man, though, who boards a train the doc sweet talks the engineer into running, then gallops from the end of the line to accrue an allied force (Barrios). He goes with them by boat, until he sees the dinghy floating by the Isabel’s and jumps out to sea. N notices a stain in the dinghy and goes in search of Decoud. D is missing, along with 4 silver ingots. Some speculation that D’s fate will never be known, but then we find out anyway that 10 days of sleeplessness and isolation drive him potty. He pockets the ingots in a trance, then rows out in the dinghy and shoots himself. N ‘knows’ D is dead and decides he must get rich slowly. 3.11: another view into the future. The Goulds return from an extended stay on Europe. Doc visits, still aflame for Mrs G. Says Viola is keeper of lighthouse on great Isabel, that N visits daily. Mrs G realizes she will never reclaim Charles from the mine.

3.12: It backed up a bit to describe Nostromo’s incremental approach to taking the silver and pretending to earn it as a seaman. Then his panic at the building of the lighthouse, and solution in having Captain Mitchell appoint Viola as the keeper. Then he decided that he loved the passive, pretty younger daughter Giselle, but somehow bottled it and let Georgio assume he was asking to marry the stroppy older daughter Linda, who had loved him for years. Straight after (literally next off) L wanders off, V goes to cook some eggs and N tells Giselle that he actually loves her and is a thief, so they plan to run off together when he has collected enough loot. He realises he can’t even make himself tell her where the treasure is by this point, and his soul dies. 3.13: So it turns out Linda can see what is going on, but pities then resents Giselle alternately, which somehow leads to her biting G’s neck and them pretending that this isn’t weird. Georgio sees nothing as he regards N as his son and sees Teresa’s wishes fulfilled. Thinks Ramirez is after Giselle. N always thinks they need more treasure, but decides on one final night raid on the stash. Unfortunately, Georgia thinks he is Ramirez and shoots him. They boat him to the mainland and the doc goes to fetch Mrs G at N’s request. He wants to tell her where the treasure is and explain why he hates it and feels betrayed but she hates it too and is filthy rich anyway so doesn’t want to know. Doc wants his suspicions about N confirmed but she won’t tell him and he sees that as N’s final victory. N dies. Georgio goes cold (dies?) and Linda wails in passion across the bay (that contains his ‘conquests of treasure and love’) when doc confirms N is dead.
The end!

So you see, sometimes two heads are better than one! Harder than you think to write that as text messages, though – especially when predictive text insists on changing Nostromo to nostril.

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