Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa

This is the first novel I have read by Mario Vargas Llosa and I have to say he has found himself a new fan. I enjoyed reading this novel, particularly his descriptions of swinging London in the sixties. This novel questions the effect love has on us and how we sometimes do things in the name of love that may not be healthy. The protagonist, Ricardo, first falls in love with Lily, who claims to be from Chile, when they are teenagers in Peru. Her lie is revealed and she disappears from Ricardo's life. Several years pass and Ricardo is now living in Paris as an interpreter where he is friends with a revolutionary group that has plans to overthrow the government in Peru. Through this group he meets a new recruit, Comrade Arlette. She is the Lily he once knew in Peru. He spends a short amount of time with her before she is sent to Cuba for her revolutionary training and thinks that is the last he will ever see of her. A few years pass and he meets her again in Paris but this time she is married and goes by the name of Mrs. Robert Arnoux. This is repeated over the course of the novel with Lily taking on different identities. She drifts in and out of his life with the only constant being his love for her. In the end he is the man she turns to when she needs help.

I wasn't sure how to feel about the characters. Ricardo is a sympathetic character but I did not feel sympathy for the bad girl until the very end of the novel. The character of the bad girl was not developed as well as Ricardo's which I think hinders how much the reader invests into the character emotionally. The only time I felt any type of emotion for the bad girl was in the last quarter or so of the book when she is finally shown as having a vulnerable side to her personality. Despite feeling ambivalent about the characters the story was intriguing enough for me to finish the book.

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