Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'The Bad Girl'- Review












Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
Publisher: Faber and Faber

ISBN: 978-0-571-23931-3

Length:403 Pages

Opening Line: 'That was a fabulous summer.'

I discovered this book on sale for €2.50 in my local Carrefour and being a sucker for a bargain, I couldn't resist buying it.

During research into the author of 'The Bad Girl', who I must admit was unknown to me, I discovered that Mario Vargas Llosa, is one of Latin's America's most significant writers, politicians and essayists.

I then discovered, that 'The Bad Girl' was published in 2006 and journalist Kathryn Harrison argues that this is a loose rewrite of french novelist Gustave Flaubert's novel 'Madame Bovary'.

'The Bad Girl' tells the story of Ricardo Somocurcio, a boy from Miraflores,a small town in Peru, who is captivated by 'Lily', one of two Chilean girls who arrive in the village. After an altercation at a party, in which it is revealed that the two new girls are in fact, Peruvian, the duo are cast out of the village and are eventually forgot about.

However several years later, when Ricardo, now a translator, finally gets his lifelong dream of living in Paris, he meets Comrade Arlette whilst helping house new recruits to the communist movement. Ricardo suspects that they have met before, but can't quite believe what he is seeing. Could Arlette be 'Lily' or is he imagining things?

'The Bad Girl' is a cat and mouse chase, which has the conventions of 'Film Noir', but in a novel. It reminds me of films such as Michael Curtz's 40's film 'Mildred Pierce' or Billy Wilder's 'Double Indemnity' in which 'The Bad Girl' is the classic sexy, calculating 'Femme Fatal' and Ricardo is the good, if slightly dumb man, who falls for 'The Bad Girl's womanly charms....I knew that listening to my Film lectures at uni would pay off in the end!

This book oozes drama, excitement and sex (so if you're easily offended,be warned!) but what makes this novel special, is that underneath the exciting plot, lies a comment on Peru's political struggles, the implications of the free living 60's and sexually transmitted diseases. Unlike some books that I have read in the past which explicitly express political or social views, for example 'Clean Cut' by Lynda La Plante, Mario Vargas Llosa weaves fiction with fact, seamlessly.

The descriptions in this book are wonderful. Since this book is set in many different countries, I found that he was able to transport me to many places, in a convincing way.

I also liked the way in which his writing didn't just simply state information in a linear way. A couple of times during the novel, the chapter started in such a way as to make me wonder what had happened and slowly, the information was explained. Not only did I find this form of writing clever, but also interesting, as I intrigued me enough to keep reading on.

Also, the ending wasn't something that I was expected. Mario Vargas Llosa, cleverly makes you believe that certain things are going to happen, but throws you off course and then takes you where you thought the story was going in the first place, which for me was a lot better than the normal, stereotypical ending.

To be honest, I can't really find fault with this novel. It's well paced, has great character structure and the story really took me on an unexpected ride. This is probably my favourite book so far this year and I'm looking forward to reading more novels by Mario Vargas Llosa, in the future.

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