Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
14
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£9.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


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

on 7 March 2002
I came across this book - Mario Vargas Llosa's first novel - by chance in a second-hand shop in Cheltenham. I had been disappointed by his more recent offerings - DEATH IN THE ANDES, THE NOTEBOOKS OF DON RIGOBERTO and so on - so it was with extra pleasure that I read this book and was reminded quite why Vargas Llosa is one of the best novelists alive.
This book deals with a group of cadets at Peru's premier military academy. The superficial order of their parades masks a world of corruption, bribery, sadistic bullying and yet also of togetherness. But the bullying comes to a head with a tragic "accident" which leads everyone to reveal their true colours.
In portraying the relationship between the lower ranks and the officers, and the way in which everyone is out to defend their own interests except for those who lose out the most, Vargas Llosa again hits the heart of the corruption and self-serving motives behind so many politicans - a theme which he took up again in CONVERSATION IN THE CATHEDRAL, another one of his books that is highly recommended (as are THE WAR OF THE END OF THE WORLD, THE STORYTELLER and AUNT JULIA AND THE SCRIPTWRITER). It's perhaps difficult to believe that the author of these books could go on to stand for the right in Peru's presidential elections - but, if anything, THE TIME OF THE HERO, shows that Vargas Llosa does at least understand the rottenness and misery that lies beneath the polished veneer of urban society in Latin American cities.
The tale of the cadets is interwoven with accounts of the lives of some of them before and during their time at the academy, mixing the personal (which illustrates the essence of Limenyo culture) with the universal as reflected in the stories of the cadets.
What is perhaps most impressive of all about this brilliant novel is that Vargas Llosa was only 26 when he wrote it. That shows above all what a precocious talent he was when he wrote this - for this great novel is better than anything which most writers could produce, even if at the height of their powers. Roll on THE FEAST OF THE GOAT - I can't wait.
0Comment| 42 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 July 2008
I rarely read novels more than once. There are some I have read several times, but the list might just run to double figures. I have read The Way To Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa twice, but not for the usual reasons. First time through I was so disappointed with the book that I thought I had to be mistaken. So I waited a few months and read it again. Second time through I enjoyed it much more but, on finishing it, I had many of the same reservations as I did first time round.

The Way To Paradise juxtaposes two stories which, in essence, deal with how people pursue ideals. It identifies the inevitable selfishness associated with a person's obsession to achieve, how pragmatism and compromise inevitably dictate daily routine, and how fate, unpredictable and unyielding, has the ultimate say on all of our endeavours.

The two stories of The Way To Paradise are related by family. One describes how the French painter, Paul Gaugin, left his job as a mildly successful stockbroker to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. A closet painter while he acted out the humdrum of nine to five to provide for his thoroughly and properly domesticated Danish wife and five children, Paul Gaugin drooled over canvases by impressionist painters such as Manet. The latter's nude depiction of Olympia played a significant role in crystallising Gaugin's ambitions. A provocative and highly erotic painting it is, for sure. What Gaugin did not know, it seems, was that the sitter shared the name of his grandmother's lesbian lover. It would add poignancy to the story if the painting's subject was actually the grandmother's lover, but the decades don't add up.

Flora Tristan, Paul Gaugin's grandma, was born into potential wealth. But she was illegitimate, her wealthy Peruvian father having sired her via a poor French mother. So she grew up in poverty. She marries. She hates sex, abhorring everything to do with the act, so the marriage to an impatient husband does not last. There is a child, but there is also violence, threats, public scenes and estrangement. Flora takes up the struggle for women's rights, workers' rights and socialism. She dresses as a man to research the experience of prostitutes. She travels from town to town giving presentations and speeches to guilds, assemblies of the poor and groups of women.

Both Paul Gaugin and Flora Tristan travel. The artist, of course, as we all know, went to live on various Pacific islands, where he painted most of the works that now make him famous. But at the time, the experience was far from idyllic. Having wanted to escape the constricting conventions and conservatism of France, he found it reincarnated in the officialdom that dealt with him, his poverty, and his illness, syphilis, which rendered him smelly, pussy and unsightly. On can only imagine what his grandmother would have thought of his processing of local women, whom he painted, infected, made pregnant and then deserted, sometimes in that order. The grandson was doing what the grandmother would have despised, derided. But then the women on the receiving end weren't Europeans, were they?

Flora travelled to Peru in an attempt to claim the inheritance of her birthright. In South America, with colonial heritage all around, she brushed shoulders with the rich, with a way of life she could only dream about in Europe. The experience galvanised her, created the resolution to seek change, a resolve that drove her through her remaining years, prompted her to write, to seek self-expression that might widen and convince her audience.

And so both grandmother and grandson pursue their own ideals, never consciously attaining them, of course, but the pursuit, like the life that bears it, is the point. The process is the end, the product merely existence.

In reviewing The Way To Paradise I find I have taken much more from the book than I thought. I had problems with the style in that its unidentified narrator constantly seemed to address Flora and Paul directly, referred to them as `you', almost implying that they were acquaintances. On reflection, that might be part of the book's point, in that celebrity renders those who possess it the friends of anyone. Both characters are thus part of our own common history. We already know them as Paul and Flora. In the case of Paul Gaugin, however, we meet a much lauded, selfish, self-obsessed, perhaps, painter whom everyone recognises. In Flora Tristan, Mario Vargas Llosa tells us, we have a member of the same family who ought to be known better than she is. In contrast with her grandson, however, her selflessness, her energy, her purity, paradoxically, identify her as a figure worthy of respect, worthy of history. The Way To Paradise was clearly worth its second read.
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 31 December 2003
I think that I have read almost all of Mario Vargas Llosa’s books and, in 1998, had the pleasure of meeting him at Dartington Hall. He talked of the South American school of “Magical Realism” that exactly describes his literary approach. This literary genre places the narrative on the borders between fantasy and reality, so that the action takes place in a cloud. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is probably the best known exponent of this technique.
“The Way to Paradise” is a book firmly placed in this category and forced me to check what was reality and what was fiction. I found that, on Flora Tristán’s side at least, all names quoted were real people and all events did take place at the time when they were supposed to. As for Gauguin, all paintings were correctly attributed, even the Copenhagen addresses of his wife and parents-in-law (Frederiksbergalle and Nørregade), where they resided for a short time, are real ones.
Arnold Ruge (1802-1880) did indeed publish Marx’s first political treatise; Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780-1857) was a well known poet; Victor Considérant and Achilles François were (minor) historical figures. Zacharie Chabrié, naval officer who took her to Peru and later proposed to her, did exist. Mariano Llosa Benavides (almost certainly related to the author and an M.P. in 1827 when Constitutional issues were being discussed in Peru) who advised her not to pursue her uncle Don Pío on the question related to her illegitimacy, was certainly a real person. One gets the feeling that he may have been introduced in the narrative as a “teaser”, although he seems to be the person who finally convinced her to abandon her claims to legitimacy and eventually return to France to embark on her crusade. Perhaps this “teaser” is part of the “Magic Realism”.
Effectively, Flora was the predecessor of the suffragettes. She died in 1844 at the age of 41, four years before her grandson Paul Gauguin was born. It seems that the only thing that they had in common was a fiery temper. Madame-la-Colère, as she was sometimes called, deserves to be better known, and is a far more interesting figure than Gauguin. It is difficult to see why the two characters should be considered side-by-side and in that respect I found the book to be somewhat weak.
Not surprisingly, the passages dealing with Flora’s stay in Arequipa, also the author’s hometown, are perhaps the most convincing. She was a remarkable woman, especially when put in the context of her time and she achieved a great deal in a few short years. She had five children and a mad husband who raped their daughter Aline (Gauguin’s mother) and eventually fired a pistol at her in rue du Bac, lodging a bullet in her shoulder.
On Gauguin’s side, things are less clear, but that may well be due to the fact that his friends in Tahiti and the Marquesas were not persons of historical importance with the possible exception of the pastor, Paul-Louis Vernier, who is indeed a real person.
Allusion is made to a brief affair with the wife of his best friend, Louise Schuffenecker, and it is thought that this event took place during a visit that the couple made to Tahiti. At that time Gauguin was suffering from the venereal disease that he had caught in Panama and that was to kill him some years later. Louise ended up by committing suicide. Whether there is a connection between these two events is not known.
Of course, the abundance of historical facts makes the fantasy aspect that much more credible. This consists in what the two characters, Flora Tristán and Paul Gauguin, thought to themselves, the conversations that they had with other (but real) people, the juxtaposition of their lives, their motivations and so on.
Mario Vargas Llosa uses a technique of flashback and other literary devices that can be confusing and are sometimes irritating. But the most irritating feature is the frequent occurrence of what seem to be typographical errors. Valparaíso is written Valpara’so; Pío is written P’o, Hôtel H^tel; Lemaître Lema^tre, etc. I can only think that this is poor proof reading that will be corrected in subsequent editions. At least I hope so.
11 comment| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 October 2011
As an aside, when deciding on the next Llosa novel to read (after reading The Feast of the Goat and Conversation in the Cathedral; very good books, by the way), I identified this as a potential on Amazon, and then proceeded to read the reviews on the book.

There was only one, which described the book in glowing terms, and gave it a five-star rating. On the strength of this, I read the book, and what immediately struck me was that for such a great book, there was only one review on Amazon.

I pondered the issue of the dearth of reviews, and concluded that it's probably not because many people haven't read and enjoyed the book. It's possibly that they read the book, (inevitably) thoroughly enjoyed it, and then neglected to complete the process by reviewing it on this forum. What a disservice to potential readers!!

With that in mind, I feel obliged to leave my comments on this forum, having just finished reading what is surely a great book, the greatness of which is enhanced by the fact that Llosa was only 26 years old when he wrote it.

The plot revolves around the activities of a group of cadets and their officers at a leading military academy in Peru. On full display are humanity's negative traits - greed, bullying, corruption, abuse of position, and flagrant disregard for authority.

As usual, Llosa writes in a style that immediately draws the reader into the novel, with the initial mildly frustrating task of figuring out the main players. Once this task is completed, the book becomes enjoyable, and the reader becomes caught in the suspense of the story, eager to find out the ultimate outcome. There are no dull or uncaptivating moments in the book, and it is without any hesitation whatsoever that I award it five stars!!!
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 April 2016
I was delighted to spot a copy of The Way To Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa in the Reception book exchange at Camping Casteillets near Ceret. I loved the wonderful visions of The Feast Of The Goast and The War Of The End Of The World so was hoping for more of the same this time around. As it turned out, I think The Way To Paradise is a far more accessible and straightforward novel, but it's none the worse for that. Set in two periods of the nineteenth century, Llosa imagines detail around the lives of the artist Paul Gauguin and his ought-to-be-even-more-famous grandmother, Flora Tristan. Historical facts of their lives are woven into two fabulously written tales that mirror each other in their protagonists' desires to create perfection, albeit in vastly different circumstances.

Paul Gauguin is already moderately famous when we join him. He has already lived with the 'mad Dutchman' (Van Gogh) in Arles and I loved being able to accurately visualise these scenes based on our recent visit. Llosa follows Gauguin to Brittany and then to Tahiti where his dissolute lifestyle and failing health both drive him to paint masterpieces and to descend into alcoholism and decrepitude. Llosa writes in a blend of third and second person narration which I found especially effective in allowing us to understand the minds of both Paul and Flora. Paul's desperation to become a part of Tahitian society while also remaining aloof enough to observe as an artist, and lacking the cultural history to fully comprehend Maori beliefs and attitudes is wonderfully poignant. Llosa takes time to immerse his readers in several of Paul's paintings as they are created and I enjoyed viewing them online with such insights. Plus I don't think I have read a death so delicately and powerfully portrayed since I read Jack London's To Build A Fire.

Flora Tristan's story is set fifty years before Paul's and I cannot believe that I had never heard of this amazing woman before. We follow her on a tour of France as she endeavours to recruit downtrodden labourers to her Worker's Union, a socialist concept that she devised herself. Llosa uses her travels to highlight the vast social differences in 1840s France with some disturbing descriptions of then standard working conditions. I became almost as frustrated as Flora at the workers failure to understand how they could use her ideas to help themselves - much like The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - and their frequent dismissal of her words simply because of her gender. With Flora, we also travel to her lavish Peruvian ancestral home and I learned of her real-life memoir, Peregrinations Of A Pariah which I would now love to read. (If anyone knows where I can download an English language version, please let me know!)

In The Way To Paradise I think Llosa has written an amazing book which kept me glued to its pages despite its long-for-me 424 small print pages. I felt completely part of both Paul's and Flora's worlds even though I found it almost impossible to feel any sympathy for Paul at all, and Flora is so dedicated to her cause that she really isn't always likeable! Brilliant book!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 July 2004
Where Vargas Llosa simply shines, again, is in the very telling of these lives, his writing continues to mature becoming so much its own and, at the same time, achieving such transparence that the reader is left to be with the novel's characters, Paul Gauguin and Flora Tristan, without an overwhelming author's voice to guide her or him -something that even great writers could find so easy to indulge in.
Whether biographical accuracy is respected or not, it is truly irrelevant. This is a novel, and it is free to ponder on more important things than that.
This is the story of human beings, almost a century apart, facing their own forms of finding paradise, perhaps the kind of paradise that Arthur Rimbaud called "Christmas on earth," if not bliss, a certain peace that can only come after giving yourself over to the vision where desire may reign without stifling moral constrains or the vision of a society where its moral principle is justice. Flora and Paul, in their own circumstances, are devoted to seeing the glory of their visions which they long for, and suffer from, all their lives.
For Flora is the restless fight for having women finally considered peers to men. Her body agonizing exhausted with the little progress that her words can manage even among leaders of Utopian groups.
For Gauguin is painting nothing less than epiphany after epiphany, following a God who must live among the most essential ways of life. For him this is what he travels to the Pacific Islands for. He's a Christian longing to be a "savage" -his form of agony.
It is interesting that both bodies suffer greatly from what their souls pursue. Also, one can conclude that, if these two ever met they would likely be at odds with each other, fail to see anything but an enemy before them. These are not people to be liked or cherished necessarily, specially Gauguin, yet they are to be understood for the genuine tenor of their passions, loved enough to have them teach you their own truths.
Vargas Llosa, like Coetzee or Kundera, continues to deepen his craft and chance their reputation to pushing the boundaries of contemporary fiction, so willing these days to hail formulas. This alone, is remarkable.
Please, read this novel and be enriched by Flora Tristan, by Paul Gauguin, and even more profoundly, by Mario Vargas Llosa.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
After having been impressed with many new aspects of Gauguin's art in the beautifully curated new show now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I decided it would be interesting to learn more about Paul Gauguin's final years when he produced what I felt to be his best work. I hoped that The Way to Paradise would be helpful in this regard.
I got more than I expected. The book is actually a novel based on the lives of two people, Flora Tristan, Gauguin's grandmother, as well as Gauguin. Each is told from the perspective of their final years, with flashback reflections. Chapters alternate looking at the two lives. At first, that seemed like a distraction. But later, the artistic design became clearer. Flora Tristan would not have approved of her grandson, and he comes across even less sympathetically than I expected in the context of his family heritage. Although I picked up details about Gauguin that I wanted to learn about the context for his final works, I learned a lot about a remarkable woman about whom I would like to learn more, his grandmother.
Flora Tristan's life epitomizes the evils of the legal system and popular attitudes towards women in those waning decades before women began to earn equal rights. Because her parents' marriage was not a legal one, she could not inherit her father's wealth. Her husband was a brute who was not legally restrained after he committed many wrongs against her and her children . . . but only after he shot her. So she led much of her adult life like Jean Valjean, on the run from the laws which would have returned her and her children to the abuser. In the process, she developed a remarkable sensitivity to the downtrodden, including other women, slaves and industrial workers. She often dressed as a man to go places where women were not allowed or to pursue her goals of social reform. During a visit to England, she was encouraged by the Chartist movement to imagine a European-wide coalition of workers that would lead to reform. In pursuing her hopes for creating a better life on earth, she spent her final months while very ill recruiting workers for her union despite official resistance to her proselytizing. In one remarkable sequence, she traveled alone to Peru from France in hopes of gaining some of her father's estate.
The book focuses on Gauguin's life from the time he first set out for Tahiti. You find out more about his interest in the native customs and his relationships with the people there than about his art. The story focuses on his physical and mental deterioration as syphilis ravaged his body. Despite warnings that he was infectious, he sought sexual gratification from a series of young women (and any other woman who would make herself available). He comes across as the worst sort of abuser, the sort his grandmother would have hated. His vision was of a primitive past that was more fundamental and pure than the present, to be found in expired Maori practices that he cannot contact.
The contrast between the two lives is very powerful beginning around the middle of the book. Until then, I was often puzzled by why the book developed that way.
I found two things to be unpleasant about reading the book. First, the author assumed that I knew a lot more about Gauguin's life than I did. So many of the early details were only revealed in flashbacks near the end of the book. They would have been much more interesting and relevant if portrayed much earlier. The flashbacks themselves were put in as extended ruminations about the past. As such, these flashbacks didn't work well in some cases. They made both characters seem overly introspective. Gauguin, in particular, struck me as someone who was probably not very introspective at all.
Second, there is a lot of editorializing that comes in like an awkward third character. In most cases, the editorializing seems to add nothing to thoughts I had already had . . . such as how a married man acquired syphilis. I suspect that it would have worked better to have either skipped writing these sections or to have them develop as part of dialogue with another character. Here's an example: "The game of Paradise! You had yet to find that slippery place, Koki. Did it exist? Was it an illusion, a mirage?"
The immense number of details about daily life of the two main characters is impressive. With those details, you feel closer to the characters than you could have imagined considering that they led much different lives than most of us do now.
I was pleased to find that the book described the circumstances around the creation of many of the art works that I was most interested in. Unfortunately, the author doesn't seem to have the background in art to fully engage in describing the artistic processes that Gauguin used. Such a focus would have made the book much more appealing to me.
So, despite my reservations, I do encourage you to read the book.
When you finish, think about where you see the potential for paradise.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 July 2005
I have read a lot MVL's books, and this is the first one that has left me disappointed. What's most disappointing is that it could have been wonderful: it's a very original idea, and he's a truly great writer, and it could have been fireworks; instead it really was the proverbial damp squib. I think MVL never really sympathizes with either of the two main characters, and for that reason he simply runs out of energy towards the end.
In others of his books, MVL has played brilliantly with the conceit of the author/ narrator having a personality and being, essentially, an unseen protagonist in the novel - see Historia de Mayta for example. In The Way to Paradise, MVL uses a variation on this narrative device that I found very irritating, one where the narrator occasionally steps in to give unnecessary advice to the characters or to ask obvious rhetorical questions (usually in parentheses) of them. It's intrusive and condescending to the reader (as if MVL realises the reader's attention is wandering and that we need to be re-focused in the right direction).
If our attention is wandering, it's probably because of MVL's tendency to play around with sequences of events, so that cause and effect become entangled. MVL is a dazzling technician and storyteller, and on his day and in other books has used this device to great effect, but in The Way to Paradise it's merely confusing.
Finally, I also wonder whether this edition has been badly or hurriedly translated - usually MVL's books crackle along with great vivacity and energy, in English and in Spanish, and this one is very different.
All in all, a bit of a let down. If you're new to MVL, try Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, or The War of the End of the World, or The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, which are all amazing reads.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 21 September 2013
This is a fascinating book. By juxtaposing the different stories of the painter Gauguin and his grandmother in an imaginative way, Vargas Llosa brings to life two amazing stories. Captivating.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
After having been impressed with many new aspects of Gauguin's art in the beautifully curated new show now at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I decided it would be interesting to learn more about Paul Gauguin's final years when he produced what I felt to be his best work. I hoped that The Way to Paradise would be helpful in this regard.
I got more than I expected. The book is actually a novel based on the lives of two people, Flora Tristan, Gauguin's grandmother, as well as Gauguin. Each is told from the perspective of their final years, with flashback reflections. Chapters alternate looking at the two lives. At first, that seemed like a distraction. But later, the artistic design became clearer. Flora Tristan would not have approved of her grandson, and he comes across even less sympathetically than I expected in the context of his family heritage. Although I picked up details about Gauguin that I wanted to learn about the context for his final works, I learned a lot about a remarkable woman about whom I would like to learn more, his grandmother.
Flora Tristan's life epitomizes the evils of the legal system and popular attitudes towards women in those waning decades before women began to earn equal rights. Because her parents' marriage was not a legal one, she could not inherit her father's wealth. Her husband was a brute who was not legally restrained after he committed many wrongs against her and her children . . . but only after he shot her. So she led much of her adult life like Jean Valjean, on the run from the laws which would have returned her and her children to the abuser. In the process, she developed a remarkable sensitivity to the downtrodden, including other women, slaves and industrial workers. She often dressed as a man to go places where women were not allowed or to pursue her goals of social reform. During a visit to England, she was encouraged by the Chartist movement to imagine a European-wide coalition of workers that would lead to reform. In pursuing her hopes for creating a better life on earth, she spent her final months while very ill recruiting workers for her union despite official resistance to her proselytizing. In one remarkable sequence, she traveled alone to Peru from France in hopes of gaining some of her father's estate.
The book focuses on Gauguin's life from the time he first set out for Tahiti. You find out more about his interest in the native customs and his relationships with the people there than about his art. The story focuses on his physical and mental deterioration as syphilis ravaged his body. Despite warnings that he was infectious, he sought sexual gratification from a series of young women (and any other woman who would make herself available). He comes across as the worst sort of abuser, the sort his grandmother would have hated. His vision was of a primitive past that was more fundamental and pure than the present, to be found in expired Maori practices that he cannot contact.
The contrast between the two lives is very powerful beginning around the middle of the book. Until then, I was often puzzled by why the book developed that way.
I found two things to be unpleasant about reading the book. First, the author assumed that I knew a lot more about Gauguin's life than I did. So many of the early details were only revealed in flashbacks near the end of the book. They would have been much more interesting and relevant if portrayed much earlier. The flashbacks themselves were put in as extended ruminations about the past. As such, these flashbacks didn't work well in some cases. They made both characters seem overly introspective. Gauguin, in particular, struck me as someone who was probably not very introspective at all.
Second, there is a lot of editorializing that comes in like an awkward third character. In most cases, the editorializing seems to add nothing to thoughts I had already had . . . such as how a married man acquired syphilis. I suspect that it would have worked better to have either skipped writing these sections or to have them develop as part of dialogue with another character. Here's an example: "The game of Paradise! You had yet to find that slippery place, Koki. Did it exist? Was it an illusion, a mirage?"
The immense number of details about daily life of the two main characters is impressive. With those details, you feel closer to the characters than you could have imagined considering that they led much different lives than most of us do now.
I was pleased to find that the book described the circumstances around the creation of many of the art works that I was most interested in. Unfortunately, the author doesn't seem to have the background in art to fully engage in describing the artistic processes that Gauguin used. Such a focus would have made the book much more appealing to me.
So, despite my reservations, I do encourage you to read the book.
When you finish, think about where you see the potential for paradise.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

£9.99
£8.99
£7.99

Need customer service? Click here