The Bad Girl: A Novel

The Bad Girl: A Novel

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by Mario Vargas Llosa

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A New York Times Notable Book of 2007

"Splendid, suspenseful, and irresistible . . . A contemporary love story that explores the mores of the urban 1960s--and 70s and 80s."--The New York Times Book Review

Ricardo Somocurcio is in love with a bad

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A New York Times Notable Book of 2007

"Splendid, suspenseful, and irresistible . . . A contemporary love story that explores the mores of the urban 1960s--and 70s and 80s."--The New York Times Book Review

Ricardo Somocurcio is in love with a bad girl. He loves her as a teenager known as "Lily" in Lima in 1950, when she flits into his life one summer and disappears again without explanation. He loves her still when she reappears as a revolutionary in 1960s Paris, then later as Mrs. Richardson, the wife of a wealthy Englishman, and again as the mistress of a sinister Japanese businessman in Tokyo. However poorly she treats him, he is doomed to worship her. Charting Ricardo's expatriate life through his romances with this shape-shifting woman, Vargas Llosa has created a beguiling, epic romance about the life-altering power of obsession.

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Editorial Reviews

Kathryn Harrison
Emma Bovary has fascinated Vargas Llosa nearly all his writing life, from his first reading of Madame Bovary in 1959, when he had just moved to Paris at the age of 23. In 1986, was published, and it's as much a declaration of Vargas Llosa's love for Emma as a work of literary criticism. Now, in his most recent book, a splendid, suspenseful and irresistible novel, he takes possession of the plot of Madame Bovary just as thoroughly and mystically as its heroine continues to possess him. Translated by Edith Grossman with the fluid artistry readers have come to expect from her renditions of Latin American fiction, The Bad Girl is one of those rare literary events: a remaking rather than a recycling.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
Mario Vargas Llosa's perversely charming new novel isn't among his major books—it lacks the depth of Conversation in the Cathedral, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter or even the more recent and less successful The Feast of the Goat—but it is irresistibly entertaining and, like all of its author's work, formidably smart…Obviously, the novel was written for the sheer fun of it—the fun for Vargas Llosa in writing it, the fun for us in reading it. It also obviously was written out of a deep nostalgia for the author's lost youth and for the Lima in which he then lived. He evokes it beautifully…Edith Grossman…has translated The Bad Girl with her accustomed skill and grace, making this lovely novel wholly accessible to American readers.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Veteran Peruvian novelist Vargas Llosa's appealing, nostalgic latest opens in the summer of 1950, as Ricardo "Slim" Somocurcio, a rambunctious teen in the affluent Miraflores section of Lima, meets 14-year-old nymph Lily. With her younger sister, Lily is masquerading as a wealthy, liberated Chilean girl to disguise her slum origins. She is soon exposed by a jealous schoolmate and disappears, but Ricardo is smitten. There are dashes of Vertigoand Last Year at Marienbadin what follows. As an adult, Ricardo's work as a translator for UNESCO takes him over the decades everywhere from late '50s Paris to the Beatles's London to gangland Tokyo. Everywhere he goes, his bad girl shows up in dramatically different disguises, denying she was his childhood sweetheart or that they've ever met before, but ravishing him completely. None of the characters is particularly nuanced, but Vargas Llosa is a master of description, and his gift for evoking sounds, smells and tastes makes each (often very graphic) encounter with Lily fresh. And with Ricardo's knack for being where the action is, whole "scenes" of the postwar period flare into view, as Lily's sexual perfidy eventually leads to serious trouble. The result is rich but not in the least deep. (Oct.)

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Library Journal

The titular bad girl of Vargas Llosa's (The Feast of the Goat) latest effort possesses the beguiling ability to re-create herself in a different place whenever she gets bored. From Lily's first re-creation, back in the Peru of her birth, when she pretends she is Chilean, her fate becomes linked with that of Ricardo Somocurcio. Because Lily yearns only for men with ambition, she rejects the affections of the smitten Ricardo, whose sole ambition is to leave Peru for Paris. But as a translator and interpreter frequenting conferences the world over, he manages to meet up with Lily in each of her incarnations, and they resume, ever so temporarily, their lovemaking. Whether she has raided someone else's Swiss bank account or smuggled aphrodisiacs to Japan from Africa, the obsessive narrator takes her back, no questions asked. Ricardo's expatriate life spanning the 1960s to the 1980s poignantly shows the pitfalls of unreflective idealism on a variety of levels. Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian expatriate living in London, is one of Latin America's most valued authors; here he does not disappoint. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/07.]
—Jack Shreve

Kirkus Reviews
The Peruvian-born author's latest novel is an impressive logical extension of the seriocomic romances (e.g., Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, In Praise of the Stepmother) that are among his most appealing books. It's the story of a grand passion, nursed for several decades by its protagonist and narrator Ricardo Somocurcio, who rises from humble beginnings in Lima to a distinguished career as a globetrotting translator for UNESCO and later success as a novelist. The object of his lustful affection is a Chilean beauty named Lily, who captures his heart (without giving herself fully to him) when they are teenagers, then complicates his life during subsequent years when he encounters her-or versions of her-in various locations. "Lily" thus becomes an Eternal Feminine figure (somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon's elusive "V."). Wherever duty sends Ricardo, Lily shows up-initially teasing him and holding him at bay, later consenting to make love with him (before fleeing again). In Paris she appears as radical revolutionary Comrade Arlette, then as Parisian diplomat's wife Madame Arnoux. In Tokyo, she's Kuriko, mistress to a sadistic Yakuza boss whose violent pleasures destroy her health. In London, she's Mrs. Richardson, this time a British diplomat's spouse. Years pass, political allegiances are embraced then abandoned, and as Lily fails physically and emotionally, Ricardo, though never freed from the erotic spell she has cast over him, manages to move and grow beyond her. Though the novel sometimes feels like a semi-autobiographical summary of the author's life, opinions and emotions, it's energized by crisp writing, wry humor and a brilliantly deployed cast who variously enable,frustrate and mirror the experiences of the two principal characters. And it's capped by a sublime metafictional moment that creates a heart-wrenching crescendo. A contemporary master remains at the top of his game.

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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The Bad Girl 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. In fact, although comparisons are made to this as a takeoff of a modern Madame Bovary, I thought this was much better than the classic, and with much more interesting characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently finished the novel after a marathon reading session. This was due to the novel's engrossing power. The narrator draws you in with his language and his ability to convince you that he is ready for change when in fact he never is ready, and the bad girl is incredible. Rarely does one see a character as develop or emotionally involving. I could not put the book down and finished it in two days. After I returned the copy to the library, I purchased it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Extraordinary things happened in the summer of 1950 in the Barrio Alegre neighborhood of Lima, Peru. Whereas everyone seemed to be falling in and out and in of love, the premier event at least in the mind of resident Ricardo Somocurcio is the arrival of the two teenage sisters, fourteen or fifteen years old Lily and her slightly younger sibling Lucy. The pair claimed to have come from Chile and Ricardo quickly fell in love with Lily. However, when their claims of escaping their homeland prove false, they vanish leaving Ricardo heartbroken.-------------- Several years later in Paris, Peruvian expatriate Ricardo meets exiled Cuban activist ¿Comrade Arlette¿ whom he knew as Lily though she denies it once again he falls in love with her until she leaves him behind. As the years go by, he keeps meeting his Lily as she becomes Madame Robert Arnoux the wife of a UNESCO official and Kuriko the mistress of a Japanese businessman. Each time they meet she treats him with icy aloofness as he hopes she makes this encounter a wonderful thing because he cherishes his Lily even if he does not know who she really is.------------ THE BAD GIRL is a fascinating character study that affirms that as you grow older you can only go home to your youth in your memories. Lily and Ricardo are interesting protagonists as the audience never knows who either truly is as Lily remains an enigma throughout and Ricardo no longer has his Peruvian roots to ground him. Their relationship over the years never changes even as she denies each time that she was who he claims she was. Always providing an intelligent thought provoking read, Mario Vargas Llosa writes an odd entertaining tale of two people adrift in a sea of humanity that is also drifting along the ebb tide with memories as the only anchor.--------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bad Girl presents the character of a woman with whom the narrator, "Ricardo", becomes involved, first during adolescence, but then at various times throughout his life, and under such guises that we are never completely convinced about who she really is. Elegantly presented against the backdrop of political and cultural change not only in the author's native Peru but also in France, England, Japan, and Spain, spanning a period of about fifty years. His proposals of marriage having been consistenly rejected with each encounter, despite his infatuation with "the bad girl", the narrator remains a kind of "saint" in her life, to whom she can turn because he maintains stability and because, as she says, "You are the only person I can trust." Having developed over time a kind of modernized Narcissus-and-Goldmund relationship with the bad girl, the narrator's constancy, mercy, and forgiveness of the bad girl's depravities and degradations seems analogous to that of a priest, a confessor, and a Christ figure. Be warned: you may desire to see redemption here, but you will be rewarded only with ambiguity and loose ends. Sounds like life to me. The book is intensely evocative, moving, and profound, worthy of a Nobel Prize winner in Literature. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Great story, real characters and wonderful writing. I was along for the ride from page one and not disappointed. Give The Bad Girl a try!
DennisColeman More than 1 year ago
Mario Vargas Llosa takes a predictable tale, fleshes out the work with side stories to keep the reader interested and moves us through a story of love that follows a boy from his teen years through retirement. All through his life, he keeps meeting this woman who, as a teen, captivated him when he was a teen. She adapts who she is for the circumstances she finds herself in but is never what she claims to be. She never stays with him very long. At first, she seems to enjoy teasing him with sex. We are always left wondering does she love him or simply loves having him tell her of his love for her? Will she ever stay with him? This story is well written showing the skill of the author. The tale is one that has appeared in other guises yet the author does it in a manner that will keep you reading. You will suspect that his love will never be his. Yet you will wonder just how will she reappear the next time. Yes, this is a story that I think most will enjoy both for the story itself and the skill of the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story tugged hard at several emotions.  I found myself caught up in the one sided love story and didn't know if I should love of despise the bad girl.  I really enjoyed this novel.  
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first this book seems like a blatant rip-off of Great Expectations. There's not much of a plot to speak of and the characters are by and large either flat or loathsome. Clearly this went over my head.
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Reem More than 1 year ago
"The Bad Girl" is one of those books that epic stories are made of, and I bet that anyone who will read it will find it hard to put down. Ricardo Somocurcio, a Peruvian expatriate whose goals in life are to live in Paris and be with the woman he's known and loved since he was a teenager, is the kind of character women wish was real. His bad girl is the character readers will love to hate as she tortures him and brutally takes advantage of his love for her. At times I found myself getting really frustrated with Ricardo's naivete when it came to the bad girl, but unwavering love is after all the theme of this novel. Ricardo's devotion, however, is only what makes him a perfect character in the writing sense. I can't help but think of Ernest Hemmingway and his tradition of creating characters with a weakness he loved to place all kinds of stress and pressure on in order to create conflict, which is very much the case in "The Bad Girl". Such characters are the quintessential homo fictus types all writers dream of creating with the impeccable skill that Mario Vargas Llosa possesses and demonstrates in this novel that moves at a perfect pace and never leaves the reader feeling bored. Llosa writes about love in all its beauty and ugliness, and trust me, love is ugly when someone like the bad girl is a subject. Aside from the not-so-cheesy love story, the way with which Llosa weaves world history into a very personal account of a very well fleshed out character is eye-opening; it is what makes this novel above being just about a guy who let a woman walk all over him. Llosa is a skilled writer and storyteller who can create characters that enter your world and become so real while you read, that when it's time to say goodbye to them it's as hard as saying goodbye to a group of friends you spent a lot of time with and who must pack up and leave. I was sad to see this book end and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an account of a love that is one in a bazillion-- it's for all the romantics out there who still believe in the power of love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago