Sebastian Shakespeare

The Famous Gaugins

The Way To Paradise

By

Faber & Faber 461pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

IN MARIO VARGAS Llosa’s latest novel there are two stories – that of Paul Gauguin, the Post-Impressionist painter, and that of Gauguin’s grandmother Flora Tristan. Flora never met her grandson – she died in 1844, four years before his birth – and at first glance thev seem to have little in common: Flora was a suffragette, thought poets monsters of egotism, and, after a disastrous marriage, renounced sex; Gauguin, by contrast, set out to create his own private Eden, believed art was inseparable from religion, and was a sexual libertine. But as their stories unfold in alternate chapters, narrated through a series of flashbacks, we come to see that they share more than simple blood ties.

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