The Neighbourhood by Mario Vargas Llosa review – a steamy page-turner

The Peruvian jetset seek respite from tyranny in sex, until scandal pits them against the regime

Is Mario Vargas Llosa the raciest Nobel laureate? For all the commitment to experimental, surreal, political, historical or plain comic writing that has characterised his fiction, he’s most consistently a chronicler of the carnal – and at 82, the Peruvian writer shows no sign of slowing down. The opening exchanges of The Neighbourhood, where best friends Marisa and Chabela are in bed in 1990s Lima, are so floridly graphic – translator Edith Grossman trying her best to navigate Llosa away from the Bad Sex award – that reading them in public may cause some heat under the collar. Still, if you want to know how to “throb in a time without time, so infinite and intense”, then Vargas is your man.

Marisa and Chabela are both happily married, to Enrique and Luciano, living ...