The Green House is a big, sprawling symbolic novel about dream and reality, the city of Piura and the Jungle and desert which embrace it, and the shabby folklore and quixotic adventures which make up its human condition. Vargas Liosa writes with uninhibited energy and an obstinate interest in all the long scheme-filled, lyrical and melodramatic doings and undoings that make up his tale. But he is primarily a naturalistic novelist, a Peruvian Zola, and between the dialogue (" 'There are some things that can burn more than cane liquor, Lituma, 'Joselino said, in a low voice") and the checkered events (a score card is what is needed after the first chapter), little of the intended epic or metaphysical fantasy reaches the reader. Scenes overlap, merge, disappear, return (the nouvelle vague film is the international style, alas), and all sorts of characters (mostly exotic or grotesque stereotypes) sing their arias of innocence, corruption, thwarted hopes, and banal affairs. The mysterious brothel, the Green House, burned to the ground by Father Garcia and then rebuilt, lures one and all (including sweet Bonifacia who leaves the not-so-sweet nuns for bawdy martyrdom), until its perhaps magical properties fade with the death of its founder, the harp-playing stranger, Anselmo. The novel, which won the Romulo Gallegos Award, is a heady overwrought mixture of misty sociology and fable.