Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Shop now Learn more Shop now

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars22
3.6 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 24 April 2008
Mario Vargas Llosa, novelist, Peruvian, is a word painter, an artist of consummate skill, capable of simultaneous intimate ecstasy and detached observation, skill that constantly surprises, titillates and intensifies. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a novel that details how an eighteen year old writer of hack news stories develops relationships with his aunt and, yes, a scriptwriter, both of whom happen to be Bolivian. Auth Julia is an aunt by definable and identifiable, but non-bloodline association. At least there is still some decency! She is a divorcee, not a Peruvian - what would you expect, then? - and attractive to boot. She is also conquerable. She is a passionate older woman - old enough to be his mother! - who succumbs to the young man's ardent if naive charms a little too easily for her own good or, it must be said, for the keeping of face in an interested, gossiping community.

Pedro Camacho is a stunted, bald, pocket battleship of a radio scriptwriter. He is also Bolivian - an epidemic? - and specialises in sitcoms, melees of melange, several of which he can keep on the boil at the same time. He is employed by our young hero's radio station to sex-up the regular offerings, to enliven their action with his peculiar brand of obsessive work ethic, an approach that is occasionally method-school in its execution. So when his character needs an operation, he will sit at his ancient typewriter dressed as a surgeon. He is a great success, even when his lateral thinking approach to plot is fully realised, a trait that develops into a need to introduce characters from one soap opera into another almost at random - certainly at random! - in order to test - or not! - the listeners'collaboration of listening habit and attentiveness at the same time. And thus Dirty Den arrives unnoticed in Coronation Street, armed with his original identity and a plot that no-one registers.

Our hero inhabits a shack on the roof of Radio Panamericana, where he and an accomplice in an ill-equipped office change the occasional word in other people's reports to create broadcastable news, pieces that often serve for days because the operatives cannot be bothered to write anything new. This spirit of professionalism is host to Pedro Camacho, who claims he invented such treatment of fact in order to create soap operas. Meanwhile, our hero seduces his aunt. He is eighteen. She is in her thirties.

And interspersed with romance and radio, sex and sitcom, we have stories from Peru, surreal snippets of lives that get unnaturally intertwined, where Camacho-like characters cross over from one story to another only because they interact. (Is there another way?) Reality is always present, but it can never be trusted to be real enough, for the real thing often approaches from behind and raps us on the head when we least expect it. And so for our hero and Aunt Julia. When confronted with a reality that stands between them and their desires, they relocate, invent a new reality that suits them and thus live in it. For a while, at least, before someone else's reality reinvents them again.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a highly complex, surreal pastiche, a masterpiece from a word painter whose virtuoso imagination sometimes generates just too much colour and surprise, thus amplifying the unreal into fantasy, thus shifting a moving reality into irreverent fairy tale. Overall, Mario Vargas Llosa stops just on the right side of this boundary, making Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter a true joy to read, a book whose process is always going to be more significant, more interesting than its product. It's a book to enjoy impressionistically. Where it goes is where it takes you. The reader hitches the ride. The journey is the end.
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 18 April 2008
I loved this book and read it compulsively in one evening. It's the semi-autobiographical story of 18 year old Mario, working at a cobbled-together radio station in early 1950s Lima, and a nominal student of law to please his family. He wants only "to be a writer", agonising over short stories "in the style of Hemingway". When the eccentric Pedro Camacho comes to write serials for the radio station, he meets a totally different kind of writer, one whose colourful stories are tapped directly into the typewriter for ten hours a day, when he's not acting them live himself. At the same time, Mario falls for his 32 year old "Aunt Julia", as she is always referred to even though she is only the ex-wife of a relative. The narrative follows their blossoming relationship, alternating with chapters drawn from Pedro Comacho's serials.

I willingly admit to not being as much an intellectual as many of the other reviewers, and would have probably enjoyed Aunt Julia just as much if the Pedro Camacho chapters had been taken out (his independent stories, I mean, not the character himself). It could stand alone very well; a sweet and witty story full of vignettes and great characters. I also lost patience somewhat with the mixing-up and disintegration of the stories. And I was a bit puzzled and disappointed with what became of Pedro Camacho at the very end; I feel the author could have given him an innovative but more dignified destiny; the little oddball had really grown on me! Even so, I still give Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter 5 stars - a wonderful, engaging read that wears its intelligence lightly, and probably the only book most people are going to read set in Lima, Peru!
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 November 2006
Mario Vargas Llosa is a national hero in Peru and ran for president at a critical time in its history, losing to Alberto Fujimori in 1990. Having lived in Peru for a time I was interested in exploring some of his works, starting with one his most celebrated novels, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Set in the Miraflores district of Lima, this partly autobiographical novel follows an aspiring writer (Mario) working at a radio station that broadcasts daily soap-operas. Mario falls in love with his uncle's estranged wife and their romance is told in alternate chapters to some of the radio station's serials. The blossoming and subsequent deterioration of their relationship is matched by the apparent mental state of the eccentric serial scriptwriter, whose plots become more entangled and confused with each other as the book progresses.

Always willfully experimental, Vargas Llosa is influenced in part by Satre and existentialism but also - more evident here - Modernism, with its emancipated timelines and disjointed narrative. The book begins more conventionally in establishing a nostalgic sense of time and place, warming the reader to its characters and principle relationship. But the deliberate convolution of the various narrational strands becomes more and more unsettling for the reader as Mario and Julia's romance implodes.
11 comment|19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 October 2010
Mario is eighteen years old, a prospective law student, or so his family would have it, aspiring writer, as he would have it, and he works for Panamericana, a local radio station in 1950's Lima, where he and his colleagues re-jig news bulletins from other sources for Panamericana listeners. Enter one Pedro Camacho, Bolivian writer of serials, who arrives at Panamericana, purloins Mario's typewriter and sets himself up in a cubbyhole from where he begins producing soap-operas that quickly establish a new and rising audience for Radio Panamericana.

Against this backdrop, Mario begins a relationhip and eventually falls in love with Julia, his divorced "aunt" by marriage to a relative, who is fourteen years his elder and clearly not averse to the attentions of a much younger admirer. This is the story of their courtship.

Vargas Llosa interweaves the developing relationship with a series of short stories about local characters and bizarre tales, whilst also documenting the gradual descent into mania of Pedro Camacho, whose parallel serials come to overlap and become so confused that characters die in one and are resurrected in another.

Llosa's style perfectly matches the radio serial era he portrays, moving the story on episodically, building tension, whilst continually stepping aside to recount another stand-alone snippet of a story, before returning you to the main theme. With our latter-day exposure to television soap operas we can relate to this format immediately, establishing the backdrop and characters in our minds so the humour shines through, as do the real family tensions that come later.

Here is an easy style to read, but the craftsmanship rewards savouring each chapter to the full. You could skip through from beginning to end in a single session, or take the Panamericana approach and serialise your reading. I suspect, though, that the periods between episodes will be short.
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 22 April 2005
A genuinely entertaining read. Not for years have I read something which has kept me smiling from cover to cover. Occaisional bouts of sadness quickly blend into fiction as Pedro's increasingly bizarre tales intermingle with Mario's increasingly desperate adventures. The deeper you get, the more intriguing and entertaining the weaving of storylines becomes. Lovers of Latin America will find additional warmth and memories in this, but anybody with an eye for a good story should read this. Let's not ignore Helen Lane, who translated this gem and kept the pace, the warmth and the characterisation alive. Gamble. Buy it. If you're dissapointed, then you have my pity. I doubt that Pedro would be quite so generous...
0Comment|11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Weird and wonderful construction of a novel: in alternate chapters we follow the author's account of his young life in Lima, studying law and starting a forbidden relationship with his (much older and divorced) 'Aunt' Julia. Much more important to him than his studies, are his first efforts at writing, and his job as news editor for a local radio station. And this is where the second strand of the novel comes in. Because one day the station hires a Bolivian writer of radio soap operas - the driven but outlandish Pedro Camacho:
'He's not a man, he's an industry!...He writes all the stage plays put on in Bolivia and acts in all of them. And he also writes all the radio serials, directs them, and plays the male lead in every one of them.'

The alternate chapters are sensationalist stories from Camacho's soap operas (highly entertaining). We pretty soon see a link between these stories, in that each features a man in his 50s with 'broad forehead, aquiline nose, penetrating gaze, the very soul of rectitude and goodness', be he a police inspector, doctor or vermin controller. But as time goes on, Camacho's stories start to become intertwined...

Very enjoyable and readable.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 June 2012
I just finished reading this (in the Spanish original) less than a hour ago. I won't go into plot summary as others have already done this here. But I think there's something more here than an exercise in experimenting with form. As an earlier reviewer notes, there is surely a big autobiographical element. Some seem to like the local Peruvian flavour although I found it pretty irritating myself, espcecially the cliches and the macho stereotypes - although admittedly, with radio soap opera element running throughout, most or even all of this may be the author's depiction of an earlier time. What at first seems the weakest part of the book, the final bit where he returns to Lima several years later, is on reflection the most powerful. the love story has ended and is written off to experience, off-handedly almost. Life moves on. He meets a few of his earlier friends and colleagues and, of course, he meets Pedro Camacho again, who is now a shadow of the earlier towering figure, an albeit slightly comical literary and professional colossus (check spelling), at least in his own terms. I'm not sure quite what it means but it's powerful stuff and leaves a lot in your mind (or as they like to say nowadays, it 'resonates'). It reminds me of other books, big novels, I've read, or it could be classic films. The closest I can get to laying my finger on it is Dickens. Say when Pip meets Joe Gargery some years later in London - how different he looks now! Or where Patrick Kavanagh leaves his native village at the end of Tady Flynn and suddenly the place looks so small and tawdry. Powerful stuff.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 May 2000
This book is a fascinating autobiographical account of the writer's early days and the forbidden relationship which he entered with his real life aunt,Julia Urquidi, now living in La Paz.The account is sensitively written and interwoven with various stories from a scriptwriter of a local radio station in Lima who used to keep various storylines going without notes and at different stages. The mixture is made more poignant as the relationship degenerates and the scriptwriter starts to become confused. The degeneration signifies the ultimate end to a marriage that was doomed to failure.
0Comment|12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 May 2000
This book is a fascinating autobiographical account of the writer's early days and the forbidden relationship which he entered with his real life aunt,Julia Urquidi, now living in La Paz.The account is sensitively written and interwoven with various stories from a scriptwriter of a local radio station in Lima who used to keep various storylines going without notes and at different stages. The mixture is made more poignant as the relationship degenerates and the scriptwriter starts to become confused. The degeneration signifies the ultimate end to a marriage that was doomed to failure.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 April 2014
I chose this novel because it is South American and required for Bookclub. Loved the larger than life characters and the subtle humour. Finish a bit contrived but inevitable. I have a daughter just finished a lengthy affair with a partner 10 years younger, so it hit some buttons. I will read more of Llosa's work.
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

£5.79
£6.47

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.