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the Complete Review
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In Praise of the Stepmother

Mario Vargas Llosa

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To purchase In Praise of the Stepmother

Title: In Praise of the Stepmother
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Genre: Novel
Written: 1988 (Eng. 1990)
Length: 149 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: In Praise of the Stepmother - US
Elogio de la madrastra - US
In Praise of the Stepmother - UK
In Praise of the Stepmother - Canada
Eloge de la marâtre - France
Lob der Stiefmutter - Deutschland
Elogio della matrigna - Italia
Elogio de la madrastra - España
  • Spanish title: Elogio de la madrastra
  • Translated by Helen Lane

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Our Assessment:

A- : amusing and elegant, cultured (and fun) eroticism

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 14/10/1990 Richard Eder
The NY Times Book Rev. C 14/10/1990 Anthony Burgess

  From the Reviews:
  • "In Praise of the Stepmother is a toy, but rather on the order of the gold clockwork nightingales in Yeats' Byzantium. It says a heartlessly lofty thing or two about human folly, though it has a good deal of fun, some lascivious, in doing so; and imparts it to us as a Japanese chef might impart a blowfish: pleasure on the edge of poison." - Richard Eder, The Los Angeles Times

  • "I'm not greatly impressed." - Anthony Burgess, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Praise of the Stepmother introduces Don Rigoberto, Lucrecia, and precocious young conniver, Fonchito (Alfonso), the unusual threesome that also figure in Vargas Llosa's later novel, The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto. Lucrecia is Don Rigoberto's second wife, and she is also the much-praised Stepmamá of the title to the young boy Fonchito.
       In fourteen episodes and an epilogue, attractively interspersed with elegant reproductions of paintings (from a Titian to a Francis Bacon), Vargas Llosa indulges in his small erotic fantasies and fancies. From Don Rigoberto's bathroom ablutions to mythic recreations to Fonchito's scheme to get rid of dear Stepmamá, Vargas Llosa has created an amusing little entertainment. It is all about sex, but Vargas Llosa manages to present it in a fairly entertaining manner. The episodes are short and nicely written.
       The book is hardly pornographic (and rarely erotic either, actually, though it tries to be), but it is a pleasant little read. More dreamily and absurdly presented that in The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, we minded precocious Fonchito and obsessive Don Rigoberto less here. The book is short enough that the quirks amuse rather than annoy.
       What Fonchito does to his Stepmamá is not very nice, but vaguely plausible and nicely set up.
       We enjoyed the book -- an attractive volume, in either the British or American edition -- and we do recommend it.

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In Praise of the Stepmother: Reviews: Mario Vargas Llosa: Other works by Mario Vargas Llosa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. He has written many works of fiction and non-fiction, and has run for the Presidency of Peru.

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