The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

I came to this book because I enjoyed Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter so much. This book is equally good but is completely different. It describes the end of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. I confess I knew nothing of this thoroughly nasty regime, which ended with Trujillo’s assassination in 1961 and this episode forms the centrepiece of the narrative in this book. It is beautifully constructed novel, the same events being seen from several different points of view and different points in time. The dictator’s death (I am not giving away any plot twists here, since it is a historical fact) occurs at exactly the middle of the novel. So half of it is about the preparations and half about the bloody and terrible aftermath,

There is a carefully developed sense of foreboding that runs throughout the novel and it is resolved at the end. The pieces all fall very nicely into place, from a narrative perspective.

I don’t know much at all about Latin America and the Caribbean. I have never been there. So the atmosphere created by the writer, the heat, the edginess, the unpredictability, were enjoyably exotic and, at the same time, very believable.

The book contains a lot of scenes of cruelty and inhumanity and paints a convincing picture of how power corrupts and blurs moral boundaries. The writer is insightful about human nature; one can even feel empathy with the Trujillo he describes, vain and cruel but also suffering from the onset of age and the failing of his faculties, especially those so important to his macho self image.

The best word for this book is gripping. It really grabs you and wraps you up in its unfolding story. Great read.


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