The Green House is a place of sin and corruption. Or perhaps it's an oasis in the desert, a place of much-needed hope and entertainment. A person's view on the subject depends on his religious inclinations and his willingness to partake in the liquor, music and women of the establishment. One thing is certain; the Green House is the center of life, and perhaps death, for the primary characters in this novel.
Mario Vargas Llosa is noted as one of Latin America's premier magical realists, in the tradition of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. While The Green House lacks specific fantasy elements, it does provide the lyrical language and shifting time frames that are synonymous with magical realism as Vargas Llosa creates lush jungle habitats, boisterous brothels and lazy villages.
As the narrative slips between disparate times and places, the reader witnesses Bonifacia's days as a rebellious Aguaruna Indian girl clashing with the nuns at the Mission school, followed jarringly by her eventual destiny as a prostitute at the Green Door. In one scene, Don Anselmo is the proprietor of the storied pleasure house, in the next a battered old man. Seemingly unrelated stories interweave and gain new importance in light of subsequent revelations. Meanwhile, the steady strain of progress influences everyone from native tribes to bustling cities, yet it remains to be seen whether this progress is truly a positive and life-affirming force, or if it just heralds the loss of everything they hold dear.
While difficult to read, one of the most compelling artistic choices is the use of a stream-of-consciousness narrative in scenes dealing with the native population. As voices mingle and overlap and disjointed thoughts bombard the reader, he or she is left with just a small sense of the confusion the Indian tribes must have felt in the face of these strange invaders.
At its very core, The Green House is a story of passion. In some cases, this passion leads to true love, even if it has to be found in unlikely places. Other characters display a passion for religion, seeking to convert the heathen masses. Still others have a passion for money and power that is fed by the lawless nature of the jungle region. Some display a passionate hatred of the Green House and all it represents. Readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out which passions reign supreme in the end.