Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Summary from Back of Book (Goodreads is too detailed): As seamstresses, the young sisters Emilia and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, mend, and conceal - useful skills in the lawless back country of Brazil, where ruthless land barons feud with bands of outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the crossfire. Emilia, a naive romantic, dreams of falling in love with a gentleman and escaping to a big city. Quick-tempered Luzia also longs for escape, finding it in her craft and secret prayers to the saints she believes once saved her life. But when Luzia is abducted by cangaceiros let by the infamous Hawk and Emilia stumbles into a marriage with the son of a wealthy and politically powerful doctor, the sisters' quiet lives diverge in ways they never would have imagined.

My Thoughts: To be blunt, I loved it. This book has everything that I'd been looking for. First off, I have always loved historical fiction. This view of post WWI Brazil is one I had never seen before. Of course it's fiction so events are condensed and simplified (the author makes a specific point to stress this) but seeing the effects of industrialization, the Great Depression, and then the beginning hints of WWII tensions from a perspective that is not American or European was so interesting. I highly recommend looking for this unique perspective. 

Beside the historical setting, this book touches on lots of great topics. Are you a result of where you are from? Are anyone's dreams more worthy of pursuing than others'? To what extent do your decisions affect other people? Is it more important to survive or be yourself? What happens to an old way of thinking when another way becomes popular? What impact does positive or negative activism have on society? What is a better motivator, fear, love, or duty? The book club discussion for this was right after Corinne was born, and I'm really sad that I missed it!

Initially I was annoyed with the writing style because it's one of those books that starts at the end and then jumps back to the beginning. I tend to think this is a cheap way to hook a reader that often is just out of context with the majority of what you read, especially with books like this that cover multiple decades of time. The saving grace of this book was that there was just the one chapter out of order at the very beginning. Even though the story is told from the perspective of two sisters, the story follows chronologically allowing the reader to witness the character development as it occurs. 

The more I think about this book, the more I enjoy it. It's one I would definitely recommend and might be a new favorite. 

Total review: 5 of 5 stars. 

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