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The Way to Paradise

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,249 ratings  ·  339 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book

Flora Tristán, the illegitimate child of a wealthy Peruvian father and French mother, grows up in poverty and journeys to Peru to demand her inheritance. On her return in 1844, she makes her name as a champion of the downtrodden, touring the French countryside to recruit members for her Workers' Union.
In 1891, Flora's grandson, struggling pain
Paperback, 454 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Picador USA (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  4,249 ratings  ·  339 reviews

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Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobels
Whenever I see this novel on my shelf, I get that strange feeling reserved for rare pieces of fiction, that feeling of: "Yes, that is why we read, why we write, why we fight, why we paint, why we live!"

In an interconnected story, Vargas Llosa describes the lives of Gauguin and his grandmother fighting for art and for women's rights respectively. While using historical facts accurately and offering convincing psychological portraits of the two protagonists, the writer himself emerges in every li
Michael Finocchiaro
Another wonderful and perceptive piece of historical fiction from MVL, this time about the French painter Paul Gaugin and his grandmother Flora Tristán. I had no idea that Gaugin was part-Peruvian and what a tragic but interesting life she led. The book is divided (as many of MVL's books including his autobiography) with alternate chapters dealing with Flora's life during her last few months and Paul/Koké's life towards the end of his life in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. The writing is - as ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Before you start this book, find a big coffee table book of Paul Gauguin's art to use as a reference as you read, or read it next to your internet link so you can check out Gauguin's paintings.

This historical novel by Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa brings up big questions about genius and committment. The book alernates between sections about French artist Paul Gauguin and his grandmother Flora Tristan, a feminist and labour organizer int he early 19th century. Both are driven people
It was a game they played, in Peru, when Paul Gauguin was just a boy. A curly-headed boy in short pants and a smock, running in a circle of cousins and other children from the neighborhood, asking one and then another, "Is this the way to Paradise?" They would always reply, "No, try the next corner, sir; ask there." And they would titter, trade places. This remembrance, on Gauguin's deathbed, serves. There is an instinct within us for Paradise; yet Paradise remains elusive.

Perhaps that is the th
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars
An interesting read though not gripping enough and a bit too long to keep me interested. At a certain point it became too repetitive to hold my attention and I was longing to finish. Also I didn't like the switch between the "present" and the past, even within a chapter which made it confusing and tiring. I think had it been like 150 pages shorter I would have given it one star more, but as it is now I can't give it more than 2.5 stars.
Aug 15, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I'd love this historical fiction based on Paul Gauguin (one of my favorite painters) and his political activist grandmother, Flora Tristan. The narrative was confusing, constantly switching back and forth from 2nd to 3rd person. I also felt like I'd rather learn these fascinating characters' true stories, rather than wondering what was fact and what was fiction. It seemed tedious and repetitive to me. I just felt relief when I finally decided not to finish it after 200 pages.
BOOK 3 - Around the World Read - Peru
Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru and as of this book's publication in 2003, lived in London. I pulled this off the library shelf at random, having never heard of it or of the author. Then at home I turned to the text and started reading. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about this work, and sometimes that makes all the difference.
A woman, Flora Tristan, fights for worker's and women's rights in Europe while her grandson, Paul Gaugin, t
Farhan Khalid
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I want my paintings to be of spiritual comfort to human beings, the way the word of Christ was comfort to them

I didn't have time to be happy, with the frenetic life I was leading. But I was certainly busy

A Pleasant dream, sweet, faintly, exciting, nostalgic

Color, according to him, was something deeper and more subjective than could be found in the world

It was a manifestation of human sentiments, beliefs, fantasies

All the spirituality of an age, and all it's angels and demons, were expressed in t
Victoria Ray
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A masterpiece of historical fiction: shows 2 different roads to Paradise (here, on Earth).
First - Paul Gaugin, the painter, who is searching his paradise in Polynesia; second - Flora Tristan, his grandmother, searching for Paradise thru creating (or believing) in utopian society in which women enjoy basic human rights.
Attention: there’re a number of characters and the chapters told from different perspectives.
Beautiful writing (style), a joy to read.
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I have become a big fan of Vargas Llosa and I read this book a few years back. It tells the gritty story of Paul Gauguin and how he ends up on Tahiti. Gauguin is rough and open to all sorts of experiences on the island and continues to make his new form of art.
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Way to Paradise splits its time between the painter Paul Gauguin--after he’s abandoned Europe and his family for Tahiti--and Gauguin’s grandmother, Flora, a social reformer traveling around France decades earlier, trying to inspire workers to band together and stand up for their rights. I usually enjoy Mario Vargas Llosa’s books – both his writing style and his choice of subject matter – and Gauguin’s story is a fascinating one (see also Maugham’s The Moon And Sixpence). Gauguin is a daring ...more
John Gurney
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This historic fiction pairs alternating chapters about Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin and his muckraking grandmother, who died before his birth, Flora Tristan. Gauguin led an improbable life, switching from seaman to a successful career as a stockbroker, then trying painting, causing his family's destitution. He became a bohemian's bohemian, abandoning Europe to live as a 'savage' libertine in Panama and Tahiti. The unbending, ultra-principled Flora Tristan was an early feminist, who al ...more
Czarny Pies
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vargas Llosa fans with a high pain threshold
This is a secondary work by a writer who often attains greatness. I would not recommend it to anyone but diehard Vargas Llosa fans. For the normal reader it would be better to start with one of Vargas Llosa's masterpieces such as the War at the End of the World or Conversation in a Cathedral. It would be pointless to read an inferior work by this writer who has produced so many outstanding novels.

Vargas Llosa is nonetheless a very intelligent observer of humanity and thus even when he is not at
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Parallel fictionalized biographies of Gaugin and Flora Tristan, a 19th c. avant garde feminist, who is also his grandmother.
The author addresses is characters directly, talks to them as if they were intimate friends. Two extraordinary individuals in search of their own Utopia, the road to which, inexorably, lead them through hell. This is an unforgettable book that spans 3 continents and three generations.
The themes covered span from social justice, art, sexuality, gender, madness, capitalism, s
This utterly brilliant book presents,in alternating chapters, the account of a woman dedicated to social reform and the stormy life and death of her grandson.Their lives barely overlap in time,and on the surface,could hardly be more different.Yet both individuals displayed throughout their lives a passion for justice,and both overcame the bourgeouse ethics of the day to forge new and important standards for the world.

I don´t think it is much of a spoiler to reveal that the grandson here is Paul
Rute Martins
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest south-american writers delitgh us with a fabulous narrative and immersive and interesting story about Paul Gaugin and his deep fears and toughts. You'll get to know more about the painter but also enter in the imaginative and rich universe of Mario Vargas Llosa. ...more
Moushine Zahr
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third novel I've read from the 2010 Literature Nobel Prize winner and Peruvian author. This is the second time I love reading his book, which is both well written, a great story and filled with many interesting historical facts.

This novel is a biography (both real and imagined, I suppose) of two individuals:

1. Flora Tristan (1803-1844), is French, whose father was Peruvian like the author, but he died when she was just 4 years old. I've never heard of Flora Tristan before reading t
Christian Belanger
In the abstract, there's something very compelling about the structure MVL has chosen — the alternating chapters tell the story of Gauguin and his grandmother, the social reformer Flora Tristan, two utopians that seem out of time, and who both eventually run out of time. The English title reads like a slight misnomer; Vargas Llosa is much more interested in exploring how someone becomes the kind of person seeking transcendence or revolution, despite its distance, than in which hopeless route the ...more
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two parallel stories.

First, the life of Gauguin, the French painter. We follow his steps into the world of arts and insanity. We follow his path between Paris and Tahiti.

Then, the life of his grandmother, an activist for worker's rights in the French society of her time. We understand her struggle, her fight, her motivations.

A beautifully written novel that highlights secrets of these two outstandingl characters, with the peculiar style of Mario Vargas Llosa.
When the 2010 Nobel Prize for literature was announced I ran to the library, and this was the only Vargas Llosa.
The Way to Paradise: A Novel, by Nobel-prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, is a sweeping reimagining of the artist Paul Gauguin and his suffragette grandmother, Flora Tristan. While Peruvian writer, Llosa has woven the two tales with admirable imagination, switching narratives from grandmother to grandson with lines that never cross (the two never met), his second person remarks,
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
“A great writer on his favorite subject: the madness, the fervor, the suffering and the foolishness of creative people.” Richmond Times Dispatch

What vulnerable beings we are, so full of ambition and desire, yet so completely at the mercy of the oft-enfeebled bodies that entomb us. Our two secular missionaries struggle in equal parts against the imperfect societies and imperfect bodies they inhabit. Their visions of paradise could not be more disparate, yet they are similarly consumed with a driv
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This counts as 2 books because I am also reading it in Spanish for my class. The Spanish is fairly clear, but the construction is multi-layered with alternate chapters recounting the lives of Paul Gauguin, the artist who renounces all conventions & civilization, as well as his wife & 5 children, to live & work in Tahiti & the Marquesas. His life becomes as hedonistic as syphillis will allow & slowly but surely his physical & mental health is destroyed. His paintings are literally & figuratively ...more
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't see this in lists of recommended MVL novels, so I guess for him it's a minor work. But I really liked it. The two stories, told in alternating chapters, of Paul Gauguin and his socialist-feminist grandmother Flora Tristan, echo each other and yet also provide critical contrasts. Flora's heroic self-denial and convictions about the subjugation of women (and its connection to class struggle) are juxtaposed with Gauguin's often rather exploitative version of liberation from bourgeois sexual ...more
Peter Ellwood
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an outstanding book! I'm only giving it four stars because I need to leave enough space at the top to allow for masterpieces like War and Peace: but I'm sorely tempted to put it up there alongside the greatest. Marvellous and absorbing. It's not exactly a conventional structure for a novel - for example, it's most unusual, but thoroughly effective for Llosa to address his two main characters as second person "you". First person has been done before, third person is the norm - but second per ...more
I like the characters here a lot: Paul Gauguin and his rabble-rousing grandmother, Flora Tristan. Their stories are very interesting (not to mention historically accurate). Both follow their passion and run counter to the age and culture in doing so. Tristan is a feminist who advocates change for workers; Gauguin abandons his family and profession to pursue a more genuine life as a painter in the South Pacific. Mario Vargas Llosa alternates chapters addressed to the characters (a literary device ...more
Ivor Hartmann
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What Hesse did for Siddhartha Gautama in 'Siddhartha', so does Llosa for Paul Gauguin (and his grandmother) in 'The way to Paradise'. A vast and powerful work, it had me stopping in parts just to step back and admire the awesomeness of his writing for a spell. Truly he is one of the giants of literature, and one whom I have been hooked on since I read 'Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter' in my teens. ...more
Sep 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written and structured...I think no reader can get enough of the two parallel stories, of the two lives of Paul Gauguin, famous painter, and Flora Tristan, his grandmother and feminist.
I loved (again) the fact that Vargas Llosa expresses directly his thoughts towards his heroes. It maybe Llosa or their inner voice, asking them what they did and what they should do.
May 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
As always, a well written enjoyable read from Mario Vargas Llosa. He rarely disappoints in providing insights to the human condition throughout his novels. I feel like this book is less well known and respected than his other efforts, i can understand that. But, for his fans, there's plenty of content in here to enjoy ...more
Melanie Judah
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The way to paradise" an clever double biography written as a novel, it took me a couple of chapters to realise what i was reading; biographies of Gaugin and his grandmother. I couldn't put this down. ...more
seems legit that he won a Nobel prize.
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Mario Vargas Llosa, born in Peru in 1936, is the author of some of the most significant writing to come out of South America in the past fifty years. His novels include The Green House, about a brothel in a Peruvian town that brings together the innocent and the corrupt; The Feast of the Goat, a vivid re-creation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo’s insidiou ...more

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