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Alentejo Blue

2.67 of 5 stars 2.67  ·  rating details  ·  647 ratings  ·  106 reviews
"Alentejo Blue" is the story of a village community in Portugal, told through the lives of men and women whose families have lived there for generations and some who are passing through. For Teresa, a beautiful girl not yet twenty, Mamarrosa is a place from which to escape. For the dysfunctional Potts family, it is a way of running from trouble (though not eluding it). Vas...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2006 by Scribner Book Company (first published 2006)
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The Road by Cormac McCarthyEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanSuite Française by Irène NémirovskyBlack Swan Green by David Mitchell
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2006
34th out of 200 books — 25 voters
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2007 Tournament of Books
13th out of 16 books — 11 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,147)
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Kinga
I really liked Monica Ali’s debut novel ‘Brick Lane’ but I was worried before I started reading this. It often happens that writers who had a popular debut novel decide to stick to the formula and produce book-club pleasing watered down versions of their debut.

Luckily, that’s not the case here. Monica Ali did not want to be locked writing endless ‘sari & curry’ family sagas. She broke free and did something very brave, that is, completely departed from her debut.

‘Azuelejo Blue’ is more of a...more
Joao
A remarkable book about the “Blue Alentejo” which is located in the Portuguese South West Region. It's called blue because most of the local houses in this part of Alentejo are white with blue stripes. I also reckon that is called blue because of the fantastic blue skies and the sea which is not far from these market towns illustrated in the book. The story take place in a small village which is called "Mamarrosa", however this name is imaginary there is no such place in Alentejo, I have done so...more
Simon
At first I was concerned that this was going the Portuguese equivalent of those books about someone spending a year in Tuscany where it's always sunny and the locals are charming and colourful, so this gets bonus points for being more interesting than that. On the other hand it's *very* episodic; basically a collection of short stories. Characterisation and evocation of the landscape is strong, and Ali's prose is a pleasure to read, but I was disappointed that she spent more time on the rather s...more
Weinz
Sep 23, 2007 Weinz rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like CRAP
Recommended to Weinz by: Laura
Horrible book. If possible I would have given it zero stars. It felt like the author had all these characters in her head and just spit out random thoughts about each character forgetting that the reader didn't know. Most of the time it seemed like she forgot there was a reader at all. It was a painful read. No identifying characters, no one you cared about, no themes, no real story line, no climax, no ENDING. She just stopped writing.

This proves, once again, awards never guarantee a good read...more
Caroline Alicia
It really pisses me off the way Goodreads keeps effing up my reviews. I have GOT to remember to select all + copy from now on. I type out this thoughtful lovely review and it's gone. That REALLY vexes me.

Regardless, I thought this was a lovely book. Quick read. I stumbled over the first chapter simply because I didn't have a good idea as to what was going on (it took place in the present lapsed to the past and returned to the present).

Being from a small rural town, I could relate to all the cha...more
Zoe
It is perhaps inevitable that comparisons will be made with Ali's excellent 'Brick Lane', which is a shame, as Alentejo Blue is clearly not in the same class. The split narrative works well to produce a fairly fragmented text which, one assumes, is representative of the Alentejo itself - neither traditionally Portuguese, nor a tourist mecca, the region is problematically defined by its constantly changing population. I can't help but think, however, that more could have been made of the links be...more
Andrea
Ali's second novel is vastly unlike her first, "Brick Lane," and I think this is why so many of her readers were disappointed. "Brick Lane" is one of my favorite books, and while I don't think "Alentejo Blue" compares, I still admire Ali for trying something so different. It really shows her range of writing and her desire not to be pigeonholed as a certain type of writer.

It was difficult to get into the first few chapters--the voices were so dissonant and the characters didn't seem connected i...more
Julia
I loved Monica Ali's "Brick Lane" and maybe it's not fair to compare the two books, but I had high expectations for this one. The premise of this novel is great - it is set in a small village in Portugal. Have visited Portugal a couple of years ago, and loving that country, I was drawn to this book. The review says it looks at the lives of the locals in this village of Alentejo Blue and the interaction of these people with tourists who visit and other people who are passing through.

So, what wen...more
Jayne Charles
Delighted to find this in the second-hand shop, having really enjoyed Brick Lane. This is more varied, following the various inhabitants of a small community in Portugal - Portuguese and ex-pat. Unfortunately it's harder work to read - some of the chapters were so opaque I still haven't got a clue what was going on. Others featured characters drawn with such skill and wit (the Potts family, particularly, the worst types of ex-pat all rolled into one squalid mass) that it was a shame to have to l...more
Tiffany Chang
(oh you poor thing, getting such an overall low rating here. sigh.)

the structure of this novel is kind of flawed. it should have never been a novel strung together by such a weak, pointless plot thread. it should have been a collection of short stories, each with its own title, sharing only the sad, moving theme of nuanced, unbearable human conditions, and the landscape where the stories take place.

The story featuring Stanton and the Potts family first appeared in the New Yorker as a short story...more
David
A story of change in a rural village in Portugal told through many voices, both local and foreign. Ultimately it is a story of rural decline and the vain hope that it can be arrested in the face of young people emigrating and the inconsistency of the new arrivals seeking some sort of future in the sun. Because of the multiple voices each one having only a remote connection to the previous one, it doesn’t quite hang together as a novel. Having said that, it does contain beautiful and perceptive w...more
Jim
This book is more a series of short stories with recurring and interconnected characters than it is a novel. Here in a tiny town in Portugal, the poorest province in the poorest nation in (western) Europe, are assembled a cast of characters who are locals, tourists and émigrés, mainly from Britain. The author, a native of Bangladesh, living in London, shows us personally as well as by her characters just how globalization is impacting even remote corners of the world.

One would think the locals c...more
Raisa
Alentejo Blue is set in this quiet, idyllic little village called Mamarrossa. It follows the lives of the people who live in this village or are even just passing through.

You've got the quiet thoughts of a farmer, an overweight cafe owner, a young, pretty girl who dreams of being a governess in London.

Perhaps one of the most ironic things in this novel is that the people living in the village dream of escaping to bigger and better things, while people from the city come here to escape and find...more
Chaitra
This won't be a long review. It's a loose collection of stories set in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Why, I could not make out. Emphasis is not made on the surroundings, just the general poverty and uncleanliness of its people. They don't seem to have any saving grace either, unless you consider that Ali stuck to what she knew and populated the town of Mamarrosa with English ex-pats. In fact it could be any backward boondock and we wouldn't know the difference. I think she felt guilty about t...more
Ana
Mar 07, 2011 Ana rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Where to begin in this big muddled mess?

The premise for this novel was interesting - a set of short stories/novellas about characters residing in the same village in the Alentejo region in Portugal.
And it would've been a good idea, if the novelist knew anything beyond the basics of Portuguese culture, i.e. Sumol and Benfica. But even if she'd done all of her homework, most of the characters weren't really fleshed out, while some were fleshed out too much - one chapter might run to a dozen pages...more
Katkoc
Knjiga, kjer junaki pripovedujejo svojo zgodbo, vsak v svojem poglavju. Velikokrat se njihove zgodbe nekako prepletejo, ampak stranski liki ostanejo stranski. Scena majhnega portugalskega mesteca mi je všeč, kar malo sem se prestavila tja. Glede na to, da nima oprijemljive in napete zgodbe, ni slaba, konec je mogoče res malo nedokončan, kot da se pisateljivi ne bi več dalo pisati in je zaklkjučila. Očitno je njen prvenec brick Lane boljša knjiga.
Cmorice
À Mamarrosa, petit village de l'Alentejo aux airs de paradis perdu, la vie n'est pas toujours aussi douce qu'on croit. Et pourtant combien sont-ils à tenter ici le rêve d'une existence moins amère ? Il y a Eillen et son mari, deux touristes à la dérive, Stanton, l'écrivain exilé en quête de sens et les Potts, un couple d'Anglais marginaux. Et puis bien sûr, il y a les locaux du village, ceux qui ont toujours été là, ceux qui reviennent, riches mais déracinés, ceux qui rêvent d'ailleurs. Tant de...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Monica Ali's Brick Lane (***1/2 Nov/Dec 2003), about Muslim immigrants in London's East End, met with critical acclaim and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Her sophomore effort strays from the style and themes of Brick Lane but not necessarily for the better. About consciousness, worldview, culture, belonging, and identity, Alentejo Blue offers a few shining portraits of lost souls: Eileen, a tourist trapped in a dead marriage, and Teresa, a young woman hoping to work as an au pair in Lon

...more
Amy
Mar 02, 2007 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who don't need that much to happen in a book
This book was an enjoyable read. Monica Ali's writing is very unassertive and her words and descriptions have flowing, calm quality. I had read her first novel, Brick Lane, a while before. That was an Indian book, and I was very curious to see how she tackled writing about Portugal. Usually I think of authors of Indian books as sticking to the genre. But this novel (a compilation of loosely interconnected stories, actually) is so cultually deep it is astounding. It's not just told through the p...more
Konsumschnecke
Mit diesem Buch bin ich nach 28 Seiten durch gewesen. Ich habe es im Hotel in Leipzig in der Lobby "ausgesetzt". Sowas schlechtes und mich ärgerndes habe ich seit Ewigkeiten nicht mehr gelesen. Schlechte Dialoge, doofer Schreibstil, kein Erzählfluss und Protagonisten, die mich in keinster Weise interessiert und berührt haben. Die haben mich noch nicht mal wütend gemacht.
Teresa
2.5/5
There isn't much to say about this book. In any case I think I made the right decision of reading this book first and saving Brick Lane for later.
So basically the book is constructed by little stories here and there about people living or spending sometime in Mamarrosa (or it's whereabouts), a small town in the Portuguese region of Alentejo. I think this book had a lot of potential, I liked Ali's writing style but it all felt really confusing. It's interesting that there are lots of changes...more
Shannon Cerveny
Very different from the other book I read by Monica Ali (In the Kitchen). A sweet exploration of different characters in a little Portuguese village in the Alentejo area of Portugal. I have never really considered traveling to this part of the world but after reading this would be interested.
Thea Levesque
Great characterizations and insight I enjoyed the format and the interweaving of stories. I thought it was an excellent book up until the last few chapters wherein I felt the book completely fell apart. A worthwhile read nonetheless.
Rebecca eley
Jul 21, 2011 Rebecca eley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My mum
Recommended to Rebecca by: Me
Shelves: people-not-plot
As with Zadie Smith and Brick Lane this is another book that took me a while to get around to reading. This is a story of a small town in Portugal told through various residents and passers by.

The characters are interesting and diverse, some you like some you don’t but their stories weave together all coming together at the end. I also finished On Beauty recently which to me is a similar type of book in that it focuses on the characters rather than intricate plots and stories. The difference wi...more
Shonna Froebel
I read this one on the plane coming home.
This story is set in Portugal and looks at life from the point of view of a number of residents and visitors to a small village there. Some are native Portuguese, others are long-term residents from England, and still others are tourists. There is a range of ages as well from ten up through eighty-four. Some are reminiscing about the past, some living in the present, and others looking to the future. As they deal with the world as its changes come to them...more
Sumofparts
I wanted to like this book but as one of the reviews mentions, this is more of a short story collection than a novel plus not much happens. Each section is through the eyes of different character and we see certain incidents through different perspectives and while there is some juxtaposition, I don't quite get what the author is trying to convey. That this area is interesting? Modern society infringing on rural life? Religion informing people's lives? The writing was fine and sometimes great bu...more
Alexandra
The title brought it to my attention... any book written in English about Portugal always does. But I was pleasantly surprised by her almost photographic prose. She describes, she doesn't prescribe. Well done.
Michael
OK, here's the start of my Summer experiment, which I am oh-so-cleverly calling 'Fiction A-Z'. I'm going to use my local library and pick (and read) one novel or book of short stories from an author whose last name starts with successive letters of the alphabet. The catch--I can't have ever read a book by this author before. They might be newer books, they might be classics from authors I've missed to date. It just depends on what catches my eye the day I pick the book out.

Fiction A-Z 'Book A':...more
Katy
Jun 20, 2007 Katy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like Virginia Woolf
I read this on vacation while in the Dominican Republic and maybe the sunny setting helped to bring the village of Mamarossa, Portugal alive. I'm not sure why others have given this lower reviews, I thought it was absolutely lovely.

It was really a book about people and more like a collection of miniature stories told from different people, woven together seamlessly. The characters were diverse, dynamic, completely believable, and likeable. It definitely has a Virginia Woolf vibe, though I'd sta...more
Gilda
Jul 03, 2007 Gilda rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Garcia Marquez fans
After having read Brick Lane, I wouldn't have expected a book depicting life in Portugal. I don't know the country enough to judge whether the picture given by the author is reliable or not. Anyway I have found the book interesting and well written, even if the characters depicted sometimes sound a little bit more stereotypes than true persons. The structure of the book - each chapter a short story in itself, that can be read also separately, makes it a good read if you haven't a lot of time for...more
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Monica Ali is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ali was voted Granta's Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.

She lives in South London with her husband, Simon Torrance, a management consultant. They have two children, Felix (born 1999) and...more
More about Monica Ali...
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