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The Bad Girl: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran Peruvian novelist Vargas Llosa's appealing, nostalgic latest opens in the summer of 1950, as Ricardo Slim Somocurcio, a rambunctious teen in the affluent Miraflores section of Lima, meets 14-year-old nymph Lily. With her younger sister, Lily is masquerading as a wealthy, liberated Chilean girl to disguise her slum origins. She is soon exposed by a jealous schoolmate and disappears, but Ricardo is smitten. There are dashes of Vertigo and Last Year at Marienbad in what follows. As an adult, Ricardo's work as a translator for UNESCO takes him over the decades everywhere from late '50s Paris to the Beatles's London to gangland Tokyo. Everywhere he goes, his bad girl shows up in dramatically different disguises, denying she was his childhood sweetheart or that they've ever met before, but ravishing him completely. None of the characters is particularly nuanced, but Vargas Llosa is a master of description, and his gift for evoking sounds, smells and tastes makes each (often very graphic) encounter with Lily fresh. And with Ricardo's knack for being where the action is, whole scenes of the postwar period flare into view, as Lily's sexual perfidy eventually leads to serious trouble. The result is rich but not in the least deep. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

No one can quite understand why Mario Vargas Llosa hasn’t yet won the Nobel Prize in Literature. As The Bad Girl proves, Vargas Llosa can create something new and exciting even out of a well-worn plot and stock characters. Though this isn’t one of his major works (see our profile of Vargas Llosa in Issue No. 15, March/April 2005), critics love that this novel paints a panoramic history of four decades of South American and European life, continually challenges readers’ expectations, and questions the very nature of identity, "goodness," and "badness." But for all its thoughtful tackling of complex themes, The Bad Girl is certainly not all seriousness; as the Washington Post declares, "Obviously, the novel was written for the sheer fun of itâ€"the fun for Vargas Llosa in writing it, the fun for us in reading it."

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374182434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374182434
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #738,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARIO VARGAS LLOSA was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. In 1958 he earned a scholarship to study in Madrid, and later he lived in Paris. His first story collection, The Cubs and Other Stories, was published in 1959. Vargas Llosa's reputation grew with the publication in 1963 of The Time of the Hero, a controversial novel about the politics of his country. The Peruvian military burned a thousand copies of the book. He continued to live abroad until 1980, returning to Lima just before the restoration of democratic rule.

A man of politics as well as literature, Vargas Llosa served as president of PEN International from 1977 to 1979, and headed the government commission to investigate the massacre of eight journalists in the Peruvian Andes in 1983.

Vargas Llosa has produced critical studies of García Márquez, Flaubert, Sartre, and Camus, and has written extensively on the roots of contemporary fiction. For his own work, he has received virtually every important international literary award. Vargas Llosa's works include The Green House (1968) and Conversation in the Cathedral (1975), about which Suzanne Jill Levine for The New York Times Book Review said: "With an ambition worthy of such masters of the 19th-century novel as Balzac, Dickens and Galdós, but with a technical skill that brings him closer to the heirs of Flaubert and Henry James . . . Mario Vargas Llosa has [created] one of the largest narrative efforts in contemporary Latin American letters." In 1982, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter to broad critical acclaim. In 1984, FSG published the bestselling The War of the End of the World, winner of the Ritz Paris Hemingway Award. The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta was published in 1986. The Perpetual Orgy, Vargas Llosa's study of Flaubert and Madame Bovary, appeared in the winter of 1986, and a mystery, Who Killed Palomino Molero?, the year after. The Storyteller, a novel, was published to great acclaim in 1989. In 1990, FSG published In Praise of the Stepmother, also a bestseller. Of that novel, Dan Cryer wrote: "Mario Vargas Llosa is a writer of promethean authority, making outstanding fiction in whatever direction he turns" (Newsday).

In 1990, Vargas Llosa ran for the presidency of his native Peru. In 1994, FSG published his memoir, A Fish in the Water, in which he recorded his campaign experience. In 1994, Vargas Llosa was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and, in 1995, the Jerusalem Prize, which is awarded to writers whose work expresses the idea of the freedom of the individual in society. In 1996, Death in the Andes, Vargas Llosa's next novel, was published to wide acclaim. Making Waves, a collection of his literary and political essays, was published in 1997; The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, a novel, was published in 1998; The Feast of the Goat, which sold more than 400,000 copies in Spanish-language, was published in English in 2001; The Language of Passion, his most recent collection of nonfiction essays on politics and culture, was published by FSG in June 2003. The Way to Paradise, a novel, was published in November 2003; The Bad Girl, a novel, was published in the U.S. by FSG in October, 2007. His most recent novel, El Sueño del Celta, will be published in 2011 or 2012. Two works of nonfiction are planned for the near future as well.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on October 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mario Vargas Llosa's marvelous new novel, THE BAD GIRL, revolves around the on again, off again relationship of two expatriot Peruvians living mostly in Europe in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. She is the eponymous "bad girl," so nicknamed by her tortured but ever-faithful paramour Ricardo Somocurcio, whom the bad girl in turn has nicknamed "the good boy." The opposition in their nicknames carries through to their peculiar relationship, one that combines various degrees of lust and indifference, trust and betrayal, obsession and disdain, greed and charitability, dominance and submission, using and being used. These are not just one-way arrangements, however, as Llosa leads his two protagonists through role reversals as well, not all of them necessarily mutual. In the end, the bad girl and the good boy may well form one of modern literature's most striking codependencies, with nearly all the negative consequences such relationships entail.

The bad girl begins as a poor immigrant Chilean student named Lily in Miraflores, Peru, the small town from which young Ricardo hails. Young Ricardo falls head over heels for the elusive fifteen-year-old girl until she suddenly disappears from town. Several years later, Ricardo is in Paris, pursuing his simple dream of living in the city of lights while he begins his career as a translator for UNESCO. Through his friend Paul, an aspiring Latin American revolutionary living in Paris, Ricardo meets a young rebel recruit named Arlette. He quickly discovers that Arlette is the former Lily. Arlette is packed off to Cuba to join the revolutionary army and once again, a handful of years later, Ricardo finds Lily/Arlette in Paris once again, now the well-heeled wife of a Frenchman named Robert Arnaux.
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Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) In 1950, when Ricardo Somocurcio first meets Lily, a "Chilean" exotic in Lima, Peru, he is fifteen, sure of only one thing--that she is the most bewitching creature he has ever known. His young infatuation eventually develops into a lifelong obsession, and his story of how Lily dominates all aspects of his romantic life for more than forty years shows both the mysterious power of unconditional love and the peril of misplaced devotion. Lily is a will-o'-the-wisp, appearing and vanishing, changing names, following the lure of power to revolutionary Cuba, the lure of wealth to Paris, and eventually the lure of both power and wealth to Japan, where her lover is a high ranking yakuza sadist. Somehow, however, she always makes her way back to Ricardo, whom she professes not to love, despite, or perhaps because of, his unquestioned acceptance of her humiliations of him.

From Lima to Paris, London, and Madrid, the story of the "bad girl" and the "good boy" unfolds, exploring all aspects of love and betrayal within the changing settings and political climates of the various countries in which the two have commitments. Whether it be revolutionary Cuba, to which Lily goes as Comrade Arlette; the Tupac Amaru guerilla movement in Peru, where some of Ricardo's friends battle the government; the French revolutionary movement which brought about the downfall of Charles DeGaulle; or the various United Nations conferences in the 1970s and 1980s, which Ricardo attends as a UNESCO translator, love, politics, and violence exist side by side.
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27 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Robert Weingrad on August 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A South American critic wrote of Mario Vargas Llosa, many years ago, as essentially a naturalist and phenomenologist - that is, a writer who considers characterization as secondary to illuminating the sweep of historical and political events.

In "The Bad Girl" Llosa, taking a cue from his literary idol Gustave Flaubert, comes at his main characters head on, this time trying to subordinate history - Lima, London and Paris during the 1960's and 70's - to the greater, more intense reality of the story's central characters, or as Flaubert might have said, sovereign identities. The experiment (for Llosa) fails, this book is no Madame Bovary. The breathtakingly shallow and insipid lovers, Lily (the Bad Girl) and Ricardo, her fellow Peruvian, a professional translator living out his dream life in Paris, seem to blur, as the book progresses, further and further into indistinctiveness and numbing repetition. When lovers within a novel repeat their silly nicknames to each other on seemingly every other page, we know the author's in trouble with his or her book. And in this book, the badder the bad girl becomes the less we sympathize with her, and it's the same in reverse for good Ricardo. The more Ricardo tolerates and absolves Lily of her sexual cruelty, the more we distance ourselves from him. Why does Lily, this sexual adventuress, keep returning to a man whose sole preoccupations appear to revolve around saving enough money to buy a tiny Paris apartment and running off, every week, to provide translation at yet another boring bureaucratic event?

Paris, city of lights and love and all kinds of intellectual ferment is elicited by Llosa, through the eyes of Ricardo, as little more than an accumulation of the city's street names.
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