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review 2018-02-07 21:38
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman

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.

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review 2018-01-15 21:04
Reading progress update: I've read 72 out of 475 pages.
The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman

 

 

When I saw him so absorbed in his reading, for he was reading as he walked, my curiosity was piqued. You know how much I love books. I could not have been more astonished. He can not be in his right mind. Do you know what he was enjoying so much? A book about Chinese tortures, with photographs of those who had been decapitated and skinned alive.

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review 2018-01-08 21:38
Reading progress update: I've read 31 out of 475 pages.
The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman

I'd just started an Irvine Welsh novel when I remembered that I have a meeting of my RL book club at the end of the month *slaps head*. With that in mind I decided I should really get started on this as I'm not getting a lot of time to read at the minute, due to writing commitments.

 

So far I'm really enjoying it. I love novels written from a duel perspective and this has the story of Urania, a woman who has returned to her home in the Dominican Republic, running alongside that of the dictator Rafael Trujillo during his reign, over thirty years earlier..

 

What has most impressed me so far is the quality of the writer and the fantastic evocation of place.

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review 2014-07-27 00:00
The Feast of the Goat
The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman Llosa takes the huge, horrible story of the reign of Trujillo and distills it into two intense events. One is very public, involving a large cast of characters: the day of Trujillo's assassination and its immediate aftermath. The other is intensely personal for one fictional woman and her family: Trujillo's rape of a 14-year-old girl a couple weeks before his assassination, and that woman is returning to the D.R. for the first time many years later and telling her story. So with these two different depths of narration going on, both fictional in details but plausible (Urania is fictional, but this happened to many young girls), he outlines the effects of Trujillo's rule.

This is one of those Important Stories that Americans should probably be more aware of, given our history of involvement in the Dominican Republic. And Llosa is a great writer. All of that makes this an Important Book. That being said, it really wasn't a pleasant read -- it couldn't be, with the subject matter it covers, of course. But it also is more or less kept at the level of a documentary narration. Even the intense personal feelings of Urania feel removed from us (there is the distance of time, but it's more than that). The sections about Trujillo felt like they took a great deal of personal discipline for the author to get through them, sticking to just the facts, ma'am, as much as he could. Maybe that's the best way to do this. Maybe not. But this is one of those books that I'm really glad I read, and I would recommend to others, but I'm glad I never have to do that again. Whew.

And this is a very, very masculine take on the story. Llosa has what feels like an unhealthy obsession with Trujillo's failing prostate. As if his incontinence and impotence are tops on the list of why he deserves our scorn. Really? It's just one of those stereo-typical D.R. cultural things, super-masculinity. Anyway, it was bothering me. But read it for the history.
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review 2013-08-16 00:00
The Feast of the Goat
The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa,Edith Grossman A really good and beautiful book. That is as beautiful as a book can be that is filled with murder, torture and rape. The sliding between different viewpoints and times is done expertly. The prose style which varies, but is written in machine gun bursts took me awhile to adjust to, but once I did it was excellent.

The only real problem that I had with it was that the last chapter which pays off the themes of machismo, rage, trauma and impotence was done a little obviously and unsubtly. It felt a little like a revelation which was a little clever-clever although it plays fine. But it stops it from being a five star book for me.
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