Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: "The Feast of the Goat" by Mario Vargas Llosa

While not the powerhouse, lighting rod of a novel I would expect from its cool premise and Latin themes, which I have come to like over the past couple of years, Mario Vargas Llosa’a novel The Feast of the Goat is still a solid effort by a recent Nobel Laureate. I have only read one other of his novels; his first published one, The Time of the Hero. It was neither good nor bad, but it was very forgettable. This one is most definitely and improvement, with both of them being written about four decades apart. I still have issues with it though. It is very dry and dense for stretches of pages that are simply way too long, and that makes for a disconnect between the reader and the stories importance. But this novel is a lot less forgettable, with some harrowing scenes of cruelty and torture that will most certainty leave a sore mark. There are three plotlines in the novel, each of the three dealing in one way or another with the reign, assassination and aftermath of the reign of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, all signs of which point to him being a real scumbag. The most intimate plotline deals with a middle-aged woman who returns to the island after escaping the Trujillo regime a few years before his death. The second one deals with Trujillo’s last day, with the spotlight on him and his failing body, as well as the assassins driven more by blind revenge than by saving their country. There are a little too many characters and political discussions to make the book’s profundity something it should be. But it makes it up with the stories of the people, and how Trujillo’s rage and power really cannibalized the nation. He was a glutton for punishment, feasting on every facet of Dominican life, from the dank prison cells filled with torture and blood, to a woman whose life was ruined, left broken and alone after the woman reveals what he did to her in the final pages. It’s not perfect, but this is some powerful stuff on display.
Rating: 4/5

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