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The Feast of the Goat
by Mario Vargas Llosa

Published: 2001-11-13
Hardcover : 416 pages
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A Library Journal Best Book

Vargas Llosa's vivid historical portrait of a regime of fear and its aftermath

It is 1961. The Dominican Republic languishes under economic sanctions; the Catholic church spurs its clergy against the government; from its highest ranks down, the country is ...
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Introduction

A Library Journal Best Book

Vargas Llosa's vivid historical portrait of a regime of fear and its aftermath

It is 1961. The Dominican Republic languishes under economic sanctions; the Catholic church spurs its clergy against the government; from its highest ranks down, the country is arrested in bone-chilling fear. In The Feast of the Goat Vargas Llosa unflinchingly tells the story of a regime's final days and the unsteady efforts of the men who would replace it. His narrative skates between the rituals of the hated dictator, Rafael Trujillo, in his daily routine, and the laying-in-wait of the assasins who will kill him; their initial triumph; and the shock of fear's release--and replacements. In the novel's final chapters we learn Urania Cabral's story, self-imposed exile whose father was Trujillo's cowardly Secretary of State. Drawn back to the country of her birth from 30 years after Trujillo's assasination, the widening scope of the dictator's cruelty finds expression in her story, and a rapt audience in her extended family.

In The Feast of the Goat, Vargas Llosa weighs the burden of a corrupt and corruptive regime upon the people who live beneath it. This is a moving portrait of an unrepentant dictator and the unwilling citizens drawn into his orbit.


Mario Vargas Llosa, a former candidate for the presidency of Peru, is better placed than most novelists to write about the machinations of Latin American politics. In The Feast of the Goat he offers a vivid re-creation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo's insidious and evil regime. Told from several viewpoints, the book has three distinctive, alternating strands. There is Urania Cabral, the daughter of Trujillo's disgraced secretary of state, who has returned to Santo Domingo after more than 30 years. Now a successful New York lawyer, Urania has never forgiven her aging and paralyzed father, Agustín, for literally sacrificing her to the carnal despot in the hope of regaining his political post. Flipping back to May of 1961, there is a group of assassins, all equally scarred by Trujillo, waiting to gun the Generalissimo down. Finally there is an astonishing portrait of Trujillo--the Goat--and his grotesque coterie. Llosa depicts Trujillo as a villain of Shakespearean proportions. He is a preening, macho dandy who equates his own virility with the nation's health. An admirer of Hitler "not for his ideas but for the way he wore a uniform" (fittingly he equips his secret police force with a fleet of black Volkswagen Beetles), Trujillo even has his own Himler in Colonel Abbes Garcia, a vicious torturer with a predilection for the occult.

As the novel edges toward Trujillo's inevitable murder, Urania's story gets a bit lost in the action; the remaining narratives however, are rarely short of mesmerizing. Trujillo's death unleashes a new order, but not the one expected by the conspirators. Enslaved by the soul of the dead chief, neither they nor the Trujillo family--who embark on a hideous spree of bloody reprisals--are able to fill the void. Llosa has them all skillfully outmaneuvered by the puppet-president Joaquín Belaguer, a former poet who is the very antithesis of the machismo Goat. Savage, touching, and bleakly funny, this compelling book gives an all too human face to one of Latin America's most destructive tyrants. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Machismo - Urania is the only female point of view
Betrayal -
by FTessa (see profile) 08/06/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Latin feast
by FTessa (see profile) 08/06/13
We met at a local Latin restaurant and enjoyed a variety of appetizers and beverages including ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice) and empanada (little meat pastries), mojitos and sangria.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Compelling Historical Fiction"by FTessa (see profile) 08/06/13

Rafael Trujillo, known as El Jefe (“The chief”), was dictator of the Dominican Republic for 30 years; his reign of terror ended in his assassination in 1961. This novel explores the end... (read more)

 
  "Well worth the read!"by Mickay (see profile) 10/01/12

My Book Club read this book and had a very lively discussion. Well written, brutal in its reality this story of the Dominican Republic and the Trujillo dictatorship delves into the minds and the collective... (read more)

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