Conversación en la catedral (Conversation in the Cathedral)
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In the end, thinking it over, I really like the framing of the novel. It did jump around a lot, like an actual conversation, particularly those conversations over beers. And the stories, or the conversation rather, become deeper and more intimate as the book progresses, until at the end Santiago and Ambrosio reveal their most private secrets. I liked the juxtaposition of the lives of people in two different classes - Santiago's more-privileged story arc is very different from Ambrosio's, despite the overlapping players in each man's life. I couldn't stand Don Cayo, though.
The lives of the two men are placed within the context of what the back of my copy of the book calls the "Odria dictatorship" and Wikipedia calls the "Odria presidency". Knowing nothing at all about Peru and its politics, I'll take Vargas Llosa's word for it that the regime was corrupt and that there were lots of coup attempts. None of the factions come out looking too well, though.