For North Americans and Europeans, In Praise of the Stepmother is no doubt the best known and most controversial of all of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa's books. Wickedly witty and fun, this is a strange and beautiful little gem and a truly masterful and original piece of erotic storytelling.
Lucrecia, newly married to Lima resident, Don Rigoberto, an older, wealthy collector of erotic paintings, suddenly finds her position jeopardized by her husband's young son, Alfonso. She honestly wants the boy to love her, but at what cost? When Fonchito's hard won affection becomes hopelessly entangled with precocious--and dangerous--desire, the fun certainly begins, but the price, we see, may prove to be all too high.
As the relationship progresses into absurdity during Don Rigoberto's all-too-often absences, Vargas Llosa provides thematic commentary in the form of selections from the Don's art collection, included as full-color reproductions of famous paintings, from the Renaissance to the present day, each accompanied by a story to which the painting is to be an illustration. As the book progresses, so does the parade of paintings, twisting and expanding the concept of erotica.
For a small book, In Praise of the Stepmother has an enormous potential to enthrall and, yes, provoke. You might wonder how anyone could have written a book as good as this one. The only answer, of course, is that it is Vargas Llosa...at his best.
Strangely enough, in South America, it is Vargas Llosa's political novels that cause controversy; in North America, it is the sexual content. The cover of this little gem, Exposure of Luxury by Bronzino, was enough to make the censors want to go to work.
Anyone who loves wickedness, fun, wit or Vargas Llosa with fall in love with this book at the drop of a...stepmother.