Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - Mario Vargas Llosa This is set in 1950s Peru and concerns Mario (Varguitas), an 18 year old law student who writes news bulletins for a radio station, but wants to become a proper writer.

The drivers of the plot are the two Bolivians of the title, both of whom Mario obsesses about in different ways: a workaholic writer of radio soaps, brought in to boost ratings, and Mario's divorced 32-year old aunt Julia. The chapters of the book alternate between the real story of Mario and episodes of Pedro Camacho's soaps, though oddly, the latter are presented as ordinary narrative, not as scripts.

The soaps are deliberately formulaic, with scandalous improbability (incest, murder, genital mutilation, rape, religious cults etc) and always ending on at least one cliffhanger. They also reflect Camacho's personal preferences and prejudices: the hero is invariably "in the prime of his life, his fifties" and there are always slurs against Argentinians (excessive flatulence, cheating at sport, mothers eating their children's lice).

Camacho's prodigious work rate takes his toll and he starts to lose track of which characters belong in which soap, so the plots become increasingly confusing. Dead characters come back to life and others change career or family in the space of a paragraph.

By the end of the book, all three main characters have undergone major upheavals in their lives, yet in some ways each is still subject to the tyrannies of work, family and mind that burdened them at the outset.

Overall, it's an intriguing structure for a story, and parts of it are quite entertaining, but it never quite takes off and I found the ending rushed and unsatisfying.

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China MiƩville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake