The Feast of the Goat was the last book picked by my RL book club and I’m so grateful that they chose it, otherwise I mightn’t have read this fantastic book about the Trujillo era.
The book starts off by introducing us to Urania Cabal who has just returned to the Dominican Republic at the age of forty-nine after a self-imposed exile since she was a teenager. She fled to America when she was young in order to escape the brutal regime spearheaded by Trujillo, one that’d been in place for thirty-years before she left.
When she arrives in the Dominican Republic she goes to visit her father, a dying man who used to work closely with Trujillo during his rule. Urania hasn’t spoken to him since the day she left her homeland, some thirty-odd years previously. The reader doesn’t know why she harbours such resentment towards her father, other than the fact he worked for a ruthless dictator. I could feel that the hatred she had for him went deeper than that, though, and it did. We don’t find out what exactly it is until the latter part of the book, but I can assure you, it’s worth the wait.
Urania’s story runs parallel with that of those who worked for and were close to Trujillo, including her father and the group that plans to assassinate the dictator. In this way, her story is in the present, while running concurrently with the events of 1961. The co-conspirators stories and their relationship to Trujillo is also weaved throughout these chapters.
This is quite a complex narrative with many players, but it’s so rewarding that it bore no influence on how much I enjoyed the book. I did get frustrated several times during the first quarter, but this was soon forgotten once the power of the narrative took over. It’s definitely worth sticking with, so if you read it and find it hard in the beginning, do keep going.
To begin with the novel has one chapter dedicated to Urania, then two to those connected to Trujillo in 1961. As the novel progresses Urania’s chapters become more infrequent. The heart of the story lay in the events of the past, so this was appreciated.
There were several chapters in the last third of the book that concerned torture and were tough to read, so do bear that in mind if you pick this up.
Considering there were so many characters you would thing that Vargas would find it hard to flesh each of them out, but this wasn’t the case. Each character, including Trujillo, had vulnerabilities and was never depicted as anything less than abundantly human.
The story, based on true events, was so exquisitely told, that reading it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date with a book. It had everything, but at its core it was bursting with humanity.
This quote seems apt considering it's Burns day tomorrow:
Is it worth living if you have to deprive yourself of the good things? Great whiskey is one of those things.
Anyone else celebrating it? I'm going for a Burns event at lunchtime where a bagpiper will play, there'll be haggis, neeps and tatties and a reading of some of his work.