Powerful and at times gripping, this is not what I’ve come to expect from novels from Latin/South American authors. In fact, this is the very first of the many I’ve read that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Based on the actual life of the Dominican dictator Trujillo, the novel centres around his assassination. One one side you have the build up, the background, the character formation, the development of the plot and, after the epicentre, the hiding, the clampdown, the reassessment of a nation’s identity, a twist and a resolution of sorts.
I’ve not read Vargas Llosa before, and I’m glad to find that there are others of his on the 1001 list. His writing is powerful and ingenious; the style he adopts for Goat cleverly blurs the lines between a character’s present and their recollection. In places it’s very fluid, and I enjoyed just going with it.
The characters are strongly defined and none more so than the portrait of Trujillo we see here. He is introduced to us as he awakens from nightmares, we see him rule with an iron rod, but we also see him terrified at the trauma of a bladder problem and horrified at hints of his sexual inadequacy.
Others we see only one side of. Johnny Abbes, the head of the secret police, is despicable throughout. The “Constitutional Sot” is opaque and politically deft, and Urania is a locked box, emotionally numb and filled with hatred. None of the main characters is forgettable.
In all, it left me insight into not only some of the history of Latin America in the mid-twentieth century, but more evidence of how messed up we are. And with so much of that lacking in the news these days, novels like these are great to get into when you feel like your faith in humanity is in any danger of being restored.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style
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