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review 2015-05-04 07:00
A Women Rights Activist and Her Painter Grandson: The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
El Paraíso en la otra esquina - Mario Vargas Llosa
The Way to Paradise - Mario Vargas Llosa,Natasha Wimmer

In his biographical novel The Way to Paradise the Peruvian writer and Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa displays the lives of the French trade unionist and early women’s rights activist Flora Tristán (7 April 1803 – 14 November 1844) and of her famous grand-son, the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903). The author highlights the common traits of their character as well as their search for the ideal and free life.


When I first read the historical novel a few years ago, I was quite impressed by the double biography of those two outstanding and strong characters. Overall The Way to Paradise gives an interesting insight into the character of those two historical figures who themselves never arrived in paradise, but inspired others to follow their way and continue their strivings for an ideal life and society. I’m not in the position to judge the historical accuracy of the novel, to me it seems close enough to the facts, though, and it introduced me to Flora Tristán who I had never heard of before. The narrative is written in a style that can capture readers like me and that shows that the author was an experienced one who knew what he did when he made frequent use of flashbacks and streams of consciousness to tell the two stories.


At any rate, I enjoyed reading the book very much although critics say that in this novel Mario Vargas Llosa didn’t show his usual genius. I can’t judge it since The Way to Paradise is the only work of Mario Vargas Llosa that I know so far. Besides, there’s no accounting for tastes, is there?

A long review of the book is available on my blog at: http://edith-lagraziana.blogspot.co.at/2013/03/the-way-to-paradise-by-mario-vargas.html

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2013-08-28 13:06
More than just a coming-of-age novel: Nada by Carmen Laforet
Nada - Edith Grossman,Mario Vargas Llosa,Carmen Laforet
Nada - Carmen Laforet

The scene of Nada is Barcelona and the story begins in autumn 1939, maybe a year or two later. The protagonist is 18-year-old Andrea, an orphan from the province arriving at the Estación de Francia after many hours on the train. It’s midnight and on her way to the Calle de Aribau where she is going to stay with the relatives of her dead mother she experiences a first taste of freedom, away from the narrowness of the village, of the convent school and of life with her cousin who took care of her after her father’s death. Andrea is looking forward to the independence which being a student of literature promises, but in her new home she is received by a bizarre assembly of people in a decayed flat crammed with the relics of a prosperous past. Her family draws Andrea into a nightmarish world which is filled with all the big and small tragedies of home life reigned by penury and hunger. As often as possible she flees the oppressive and depressing atmosphere in the Calle de Aribau to roam the city and spend time with her well-to-do friends from university, above all with Ena. Without her friend Andrea sinks even deeper into loneliness and sadness. In the end things take a new turn for Andra.

Nada is a first-person narrative with all its limits and advantages. In some aspects the book reminds of Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse and J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. In reality Carmen Laforet’s masterpiece is their neglected precursor, though, since it was written and published almost a decade earlier. However, the historical background of Nada makes it much more than just the story of a girl who is coming of age in a grotesque environment.

I definitely enjoyed the read although in Spanish it was a bit of a struggle as usual. Carmen Laforet's Nada would deserve much more attention from readers worldwide.

To read the complete review please click here to go to my blog Edith's Miscellany.

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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