There are some men who equate love with pain; who crave love that brings them misery and unhappiness. The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa is the story of one such man.
Ricardo Somocurcio is the protagonist, the soft-hearted man who has no ambition in life other than living in Paris. He meets the girl of his dreams at the tender age of 16 in his hometown of Miraflores in Peru, and falls under the spell of her “mischievous laugh” and the “mocking glance of her eyes the color of dark honey.” From then on, they follow a crazy cycle where she betrays him time and again, only to return back and be forgiven.
The story moves from Peru to London, Paris, Tokyo, and Madrid where the two encounter each other. He calls her “the bad girl”, and she calls him the “good boy”.
For the rest of the book, they pretty much play according to these good boy/bad girl stereotypes, until the final end to their love story.
My thoughts on this book:
While the love story itself is nothing much to write home about, I loved his descriptions of the places and the actual events that occurred at the time period they lived in.
I loved the peek into Parisian cafe life in the 1960s; the idealism of those times that prompted well-established young men to chuck their lives in the cause of bringing communism to their countries; of a time when Fidel Castro was considered a hero among the leftists; when terms like Maoism were not just words that were bandied about, but actually an ideology that was taken seriously and which promised to change the world.
I loved 70s swinging London when AIDS first makes its scary appearance, and his descriptions of Peru and the political turbulence of that time.
In many ways, this book mirrors the movie “Forrest Gump” – both are based on simple people who unconditionally love one woman. Both make a lot of references to important world events that occurred during the course of the story. Both the stories also have a pretty much similar ending (there I have given the ending away, but then it is something easily guessed!). The only difference is that this book is lacking in the schmaltz factor and the one-liners that evoke the tears.
What I mean to say is that I enjoyed this book, loved it even, but read it with a feeling of slight detachment. Not for one moment did I truly care whether the two would have a happy ending or not. This book did not evoke any kind of stronger emotion in me – rage at the bad girl, or sadness when she betrays him, nothing, de nada.
I don’t know why is that. Usually, I really get sucked into such type of stories.
Finally, before I conclude this strangely unsatisfying review (I feel I have so much to say about this book, but the words are not coming to me), I must say that I did enjoy it better than Love in the Time of Cholera. Two similar books, but the writing styles are very different. I must say that I much prefer Mario Vargas Llosa’s modernism compared to Marquez’s magical realism.
Before writing this review, I did some research on Llosa, and it appears that “The Bad Girl” is one of his lesser books. I quite liked this one, so I definitely do plan to read more.
What about you? Have you read any of his other books? Which one would you recommend for me to read next?