The book is in its way a paean to the Venezuelan llano, or plain. I am a son of the Llano Estacado myself, but Gallegos’s plain is nothing like mine. In one of his rivers, for example, is a giant one-eyed alligator; this beast is said to be centuries old and can eat horses, bulls, or anything that wanders near. And, if one escapes this monster, there is the Great Bog, a bottomless swamp that swallows up any creature that attempts it.
Unlike the austere plain I grew up on, Gallegos’s llano is steamy, tumescent, lust driven. Doña Barbara may have been a kind of anticipation of Eva Perón. She owns a great ranch, the Altamira, but must struggle constantly to keep it. She is, in her way, a tragic heroine, seeking to attract a decent lover, while giving herself day and night to very coarse lovers indeed.
She is, however, very vividly drawn, a Bovary of the llano.”
— Larry McMurtry, from his Foreword to Rómulo Gallegos’s Doña Bárbara