I usually take a day or two to mull over a book to gather my thoughts and opinions once I’m finished with it. However, with The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa, I did most of that while reading it, and I found myself wanting to blurt all my thoughts out before they left me. The reason for that has to do with the fact that this is one of the most confounding books I’ve read in quite a while. I found myself going back and forth whether I liked it or not, and my viewpoints of the characters were constantly changing as well.
The story revolves around Ricardo Somocurcio and the bad girl who he pursues and loves in intervals in politically charged places such as: Peru, Paris, London, Tokyo, and Madrid. I won’t go into more specifics of the plot because those are easily found as Vargas Llosa is a Nobel Prize winning author. Rather I’ll share my views.
The book is fascinating and disturbing, and there’s no denying it’s a page turner whether you agree with it’s premise or not. It challenges your views and thoughts. I found myself reading dozens of reviews when I was halfway through it because I wanted to hear other people’s opinions to compare how I was feeling about it. There were times I couldn’t wait to be done with it, but other times I was compelled to keep reading past the time I normally would.
Most of the time I hated both Ricardo and the bad girl, but never once did I feel empathy towards Ricardo. Like he laments himself, it’s his own fault for being hopelessly in “love” with the bad girl – though it’s more an obsession. And the bad girl while intriguing, is so utterly predictable. Her story line/background is unsurprising, and as horribly as she treats Ricardo, I understood her moves more than Ricardo’s (it almost pains me to write that with how awful she is, which makes the book more confounding). The graphic descriptions of their sexual relationship is also pointless and repetitive. In fact, much of the story is repetitive.
However, I did enjoy the ending, no matter how contrived, even though I could see it coming from a mile away. I also really appreciated the political aspects of each city, although they didn’t fit the narrative at all times. Llosa is a wonderful writer and his descriptions of cities are masterful, especially Miraflores (where he’s from), Paris (where he was an expatriate himself), and Madrid.
So in the end I’m still left confused. Did I like this book, or not? I still really can’t say. However, I’m sure from the write up it’s easy to tell that it got under my skin, and maybe that was really the point of it all along.