4 Dec 2010

Review: "The Bad Girl" - A Good Story

Since Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize earlier this year, I have been wanting to read some of his works and now I have. My first Vargas Llosa I have read is "The Bad Girl" and I think it was a good place to start.
"The Bad Girl" is basically Flaubert's classic tale "Madame Bovary" in a new wrapping - a good wrapping though. A good South American boy whose only ambition is living in Paris meets a bad girl who continually breaks his heart and leaves him to pursue something bigger and better, men with more money more ambitions.

The good boy meets the bad girl for the first time when they are both teenagers, then he meets her later in life where she is masquerading as a communist, however, as soon as she is almost his, she runs off to Cuba and becomes the arm candy of one of the leaders of the communist movements. Then they meet in Paris where she has morphed into a fashionable lady. Then in England where she has become part of a racing horse-obsessed set, all twinsets and pearls. This pattern continues through the decades, in different continues and settings. The only thing that is constant is the devotion of the good boy to the bad girl. No matter how much she tortures and humiliates her, her still return to her, saving her time upon time from her self-created problems.

The good boy lives a quiet life, a simple life with simple pleasures which I actually enjoyed reading about. His love for languages, for Paris, his ability to make few but important friendships. He is a nice man. However, he is also frustrating. Really frustrating. Because he keeps returning to this woman even though she is clearly bad for him.
The bad girl fascinated me - I found her pathetic, her lack of self-knowledge and independence annoying but at the same time I had to admire her for her courage to chase her dreams. She is so desperate for what she perceives as a better life that she seems to spoil her own chances of happiness.

"The Bad Girl" does not paint a pretty picture of its female main character. Her vanity, her lack of honesty and her lack of thoughtfulness. She is hard to care for. The same could be said for the male main character though. He has no backbone, no strength of heart. He lets himself be swayed by the bad girl time and time again. He is brought down by his own weakness as is she.
It is not a tragic tale though. I enjoyed it. For through all the difficulties and heartbreak, there is also a lot of happiness. I liked it, it is beautifully written, beautifully structured and full of life and passion.


  1. I loved this book ,I should get another Llhosa soon ,the way it wound round the world was wonderful ,all the best stu

  2. Great to hear! Maybe we should decide on a new Llosa and read it together Stu?

  3. It's interesting that both main characters are weak characters. I should give Llosa a try :)

  4. I love your insightful review of this one, Willa! I've never heard of it, but it's really intriguing :)

  5. Wonderful review Willa. I admit that I haven't read many if ant, Nobel Prize winners. This sounds like a good one to start with. thanks!

  6. @ifyoucan... Yes do give him a try, he is a really good writer!

    @Melissa and Jenny: he is a really good place to start and this book is a good place to start :-) Thanks for your comments.

  7. This sounds very interesting. I loved "Madame Bovary" so would probably enjoy this as well.

  8. Great review Willa. I've read a couple of reviews of this book and some haven't been very favorable so I'm glad to hear you liked it. I think I need to give it a try and just see what I think. I actually looked for some of his books right after he won the prize but couldn't find any at the bookstore. Can you believe that?