The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa- Story of a not-so-happily-ever-after
29th June, 2016
Once upon a time a good boy met a bad girl. He fell madly in love with her. And she, not in the least bit. The bad girl crosses paths with the boy many times, in different circumstances and under different names. And how does it all end? Is there a happily ever after, for both or at least for one?
Ricardo, the Peruvian narrator, meets the Chilean girl (who lies about being from Chile) as an adolescent in his hometown of Miraflores, Peru. He falls in love with her, but she eludes him. Later on they meet again, but she is now Comrade Arlette, a Communist revolutionary bound for Cuba. And she says she knows nothing about Chile or Miraflores, which sends Ricardo wondering if his mind is playing tricks on him.
And thus begins the story – the bad girl morphing from guerilla fighter, to kept woman of a Parisian diplomat, to English society lady, to a Japanese gangster’s mistress to a middle class housewife and so on. The novel teases the reader with a challenge to define the woman who is “the bad girl”.
WHAT I LOVED?
I really enjoyed this book. And it was an emotional read for me. I loved the way the book reads as if Ricardo is talking to the reader as a friend, about the bad girl.
1. THE TIME FRAME :
Ricardo’s meetings with her take us from Peru in the 1950s to Paris in the early 1960s and to London in the late 1960s. The story ends in the 1980s in Madrid. During this period we get an insightful look into the political turmoil in the different countries.
2. THE BAD GIRL :
The girl in this book—Lily, Arlette, Madame Arnoux, Mrs. Richardson, and so on, is nasty because she has an incessant hunger to satisfy her desires and she stops at nothing lesser. The girl allows herself to be with Ricardo so long as to fuel his obsession and then sets him on a chase to locate her again.
However, in spite of the repetition of this routine the book has a charming suspense that keeps the reader occupied throughout. The bad girl captures your interest because she is enviable and doesn’t deny herself the pleasures she aims at. Of course most of the consequences are borne by the narrator, with whom we rest our sympathies.
3. DIVERSITY :
Here is a book that has characters from different nationalities seamlessly weaved into the narrative. It interesting to note that there are no Americans in the story, whether intentional or not. Then again, considering the geographical set up of the story, it seems to be a perfect cast.
4. POLITICAL THOUGHTS :
This book is more of a love story, let’s say story of love, because the love is unrequited. However in the backdrop, Llosa paints a poignant picture of the political situation in Peru and the other places the narrator visits. The novel hints at the beginnings of globalization and lack of steadfast patriotism in a narrator whose sole ambition in life is to work and stay at Paris.
However, there are many who severely criticize Llosa as not being true to the actual political situation at hand because the unrest of 1968 was omitted even though the novel is set in Paris and there are a few mismatches in the period of political events happening in the book. I didn’t mind these as I am not well versed in the political situations then.
5. THE EMOTIONAL BUILDUP :
The Bad Girl doesn’t lie. She never says that she will be a devoted lover. But her opportunistic entry into the narrator’s life makes you tremble as a reader. Throughout the book I kept asking myself the question why Ricardo doesn’t move on, why he doesn’t stop himself from getting entangled in the ‘bad girl’s snare’.
6. IDENTITY :
The narrator works as a translator. So in a way he swims in literary worlds he isn’t accustomed to. He feels completely at home in Paris, though not born in France. And then there is the question of the identity of the bad girl, whether she is a picture created by a mad lover’s obsession or whether she has a true self beneath the artifice.
It is said that Llosa modelled the bad girl after Emma Bovary by Flaubert. Since I have not read Madame Bovary yet, I cannot validate the claim. However I did find her similar to Daisy of The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, though if we compare both, Daisy feels like an angel.
I am not sure whether I like the ending. This is because I became too emotionally attached to Ricardo and wished there was some way I could scream out to him; shake his shoulders and shout in his ears to stay away from the object of his obsession. I felt helpless as a reader and sympathetic to Ricardo’s plight.
Good novel, bad girl. Still undecided about the adjective for the boy. Would definitely recommend the read to chase down the bad girl.
Title : The Bad Girl
Author : Mario Vargas Llosa (Translated by Edith Grossman)
Publisher : Faber & Faber
Published : 2008 (Originally in 2006)
Language : English (Translated from Spanish)
Pages : 403
Rating : 4/5
Have you read The Bad Girl? Did you sympathize with Ricardo or felt admiration for the depth of the bad girl’s powers?
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Mario Vargas Llosa, is a Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, essayist, college professor, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America’s most significant novelists and essayists. Many of Vargas Llosa’s works are influenced by the writer’s perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. He has always been politically active. Other famous works include The Time of the Hero, The Green House and The Feast of the Goat.