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Veteran Peruvian novelist Vargas Llosa's appealing, nostalgic latest opens in the summer of 1950, as Ricardo Slim Somocurcio, a rambunctious teen in the affluent Miraflores section of Lima, meets 14-year-old nymph Lily. With her younger sister, Lily is masquerading as a wealthy, liberated Chilean girl to disguise her slum origins. She is soon exposed by a jealous schoolmate and disappears, but Ricardo is smitten. There are dashes of Vertigo and Last Year at Marienbad in what follows. As an adult, Ricardo's work as a translator for UNESCO takes him over the decades everywhere from late '50s Paris to the Beatles's London to gangland Tokyo. Everywhere he goes, his bad girl shows up in dramatically different disguises, denying she was his childhood sweetheart or that they've ever met before, but ravishing him completely. None of the characters is particularly nuanced, but Vargas Llosa is a master of description, and his gift for evoking sounds, smells and tastes makes each (often very graphic) encounter with Lily fresh. And with Ricardo's knack for being where the action is, whole scenes of the postwar period flare into view, as Lily's sexual perfidy eventually leads to serious trouble. The result is rich but not in the least deep. (Oct.)
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Llosa writes an unabashed love story and makes no apologies for it. He seamlessly weaves it into the rich texture of the social atmosphere of the times. . . . Written with passion and energy that delivers. (Rocky Mountain News)
Perversely charming . . . irresistibly entertaining. (The Washington Post Book World)
A marvelous novel. (Chicago Tribune)
Spans decades and continents--and in the process, with a deftness that borders on literary sleight of hand, bridges the personal and the universal. (San Francisco Chronicle)
A beautifully constructed, stinging tease of a novel. (The Seattle Times)