I’m on a mission to find a novel with a Latin American setting that I can actually enjoy. I carefully do the research, pick up books with great ratings, only to slam them down in disappointment. I was very hopeful when I started this book.
The novel takes place in Brazil during the 1920’s, where two sisters (both seamstresses), end up living lives that could not be more polar opposite of each other. Luzia dos Santos, escapes the mountainside by marrying a young legal scholar from a fine family in the city. Older sister Emilia is kidnapped by a band of cangaceiros, who are outlaw vigilantes, seeking to even the score between the wealthy landowners and the poor who must work for them. Emilia is a kind of good luck charm or talisman to this band of men, but she later marries the leader of the group, and becomes infamous throughout the area.
The author is a beautiful writer, carefully researching and presenting a Brazil on the verge of cultural and political upheaval. It was by far the best Latin American novel I’ve read to date. Did it dispel my bias against subjects that take place south of the United States? Not entirely, but it was certainly no fault of the author. She is an excellent writer and this was a fine example of good historical fiction. I think it must be some idiosyncrasy of mine. So please don’t let it deter you from reading this novel, especially if you think you’d enjoy learning about Brazilian history.
4 stars (out of 4)
Published in 2008