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The Seamstress

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,070 Ratings  ·  391 Reviews
As seamstresses, the young sisters Emília and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, how to mend, and how to conceal. These are useful skills in the lawless backcountry of Brazil, where ruthless land barons called "colonels" feud with bands of outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the cross fire.

Emília, whose knowledge of the world comes from fashion magazines and
Hardcover, 656 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Harper (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Extraordinarily vivid. I feel as though I've been away in Brazil for the past week!
No glowing prose, no melodrama, no big statements to make. Just the grand and beautiful telling of a story for its own sake. Emilia and Luzia are raised by their Aunt Sofia in rural northeastern Brazil in the 1920s. Their lives diverge in their late teens when Luzia is abducted by a notorious band of outlaws led by "The Hawk". Shortly thereafter, Emilia marries into high society and moves to the coastal city of Re
Sep 21, 2009 Lee rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lee by: Wendy
This really was an unexpected pleasure. When I started reading, my mental picture of Brazil could not have been more different than what I found in this amazing story. Descriptions of the northern countryside, a hot, dry scrub land, contrast wonderfully with the lush humidity of the regional capital of Recife and parallel the storylines of two sisters separated by unusual circumstances. Both girls raised and trained as seamstresses by their widowed aunt, are eventually drawn in completely differ ...more
Mar 07, 2011 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lee Aiken
Definitely a 5-star book! This was a book of fictions that had the feel of real life. This book is the best of what can be done with the genre historical fiction. You take the facts and weave them into a story that makes them memorable and moving - a truly wonderful story! I loved every bit of this book. It was not too long, it never dragged and I learned a bit of Brazilian history.

27 pages left/ V-E-R-Y E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G

Through 550: Yes, the phrenology movement, the belif in cranium measurements
Oct 01, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a MUST read!!! This book is truly an unbelievable tale of two Brazilian sisters and the struggle for women to maintain a sense of self despite drought, revolution, economic hardship, and separation from loved ones in the 1930s. The author wove a tremendous amount of what Brazil was really like in the country and in the city throughout the book so you felt like you were really there. The character development of each of the characters was amazing; I felt like I really knew and had a relat ...more
Jul 21, 2016 Donna rated it really liked it
This was an enjoyable Historical Fiction read. It was set in Brazil which provided new information about a culture, a people, and a place that I'm not familiar with. This was about 2 sisters and their different journeys. I loved how they were depicted. They were so different but forever linked. The author did a remarkable job with character development. The writing was also quite beautiful.

Another thing I liked was how the story moved along. There was always something new to glean or something
Sep 12, 2008 Lara rated it it was amazing
I really cannot rave enough about this book. I loved it. LOVED it. It reminded me a bit of One Hundred Years of Solitude, except that I read that book so long ago that you should cut me some slack if the two aren't similar at all. Which, now that I think of it, they really aren't, because The Seamstress isn't a multi-generational story like that one. So never mind.

I don't want to write too much about the story itself because part of what I loved about it is the way it reveals itself slowly, and
Sep 24, 2009 Merry rated it really liked it
Recommended to Merry by: Our Little Book Club #2 book!
Based in Brazil, during political unrest, two sisters, Luzia and Emilia, take different paths in life, but remain connected and close even though they live their adult lives physically apart. The sisters are taught to sew at an early age by a loving Aunt Sophia. As talented seamstresses, the author masterfully sews their craft into the story line, to describe details of their lives, in the way they think, and even as a secret way for the two to communicate. Their craft will help them through out ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Katherine rated it did not like it
Well-written if overly long, tending toward a slight bloat of historical fact. Though the story is interesting even compelling, it's also dark, tragic, and contains a lot of gruesome, brutal violence.

The writing and the compelling story-telling warrant more than one star but in all honesty I truly did not like this book. Not recommended unless you have a particular interest in bleak Brazilian history and a highly-developed acceptance for overt brutality in the books you read.

I'm a little surpr
Jun 14, 2012 Nancy rated it it was amazing
History, war, romance, sisterhood, poverty, wealth, transformation=a perfect book!
Nov 20, 2008 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Cynthia by: Book Club
This book was fabulous, it had everything- dynamic characters, interesting setting, wonderful descriptions, terrific plot, compelling themes, and symbolism throughout.

Set in late 1920's to mid 1930's in Brazil during the Green Party revolution, two sisters', both talented seamstresses from a small mountain village, lives change dramatically. Emilia has big dreams to leave her country life for the city, to have a kitchen with tiled floors, a romantic husband, and to wear fashionable clothes. Luiz
Jan 03, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it
I really did enjoy this book...wasn't convinced when I started it, though once I got was an engaging, enthroalling book 2 sisters in Brazil in the 30s. Definitely a page turner and one I read late into the night. I wasn't sure about the ending, but the more I thought about it...decided it was probably perfect.
Nov 19, 2009 Tara rated it it was ok
This book was a bit of an odd duck for me. I was truly impressed by the knowledge of the history and culture of 1920's/1930's era Brazil that the author presented, but I found it difficult to really connect with the characters. I wasn't especially fond of Emilia or Luzia and I think part of that was from the split perspective nature of the book, wherein it switched from Luzia to Emilia and back again. I felt as though every time I was just warming up to one of them, the book split and went to th ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I have a hard time writing five star reviews; it can be hard to avoid gushing and to say something that hasn't already been said. But this book deserves the effort, so here goes.

As others have recounted, The Seamstress is about the lives of two Brazilian sisters in the early twentieth century. They're raised together in the highlands of the state of Pernambuco, but early in the book each departs on her separate journey: the younger sister, Luzia, is taken by a group of bandits that happens thro
Mar 15, 2014 Cosima rated it it was amazing
Frances de Pontes Peebles created a rich and lively atmosphere in "The Seamstress". This tale has a great sense of place and while reading it I felt like I really was carried away to a long past period in Brazil. I could see, feel, and smell everything as if it were right in front of me. The subject of cangaceiros was fascinating as I'd never heard of them before. Apparently "The Seamstres" is one of many adaptations of the story of the real-life cangaceiros Lampiao and Maria Bonita. The contras ...more
Oct 03, 2008 K rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of South American literature
Shelves: 2008
I am really quite torn about this book.

On one hand, it starts so so well, with beautiful Isabel Allende-esque prose.

On the other, it eventually reads like a history book and ultimately ends up being two hundred pages too long and repetitive.

I have decided upon four stars, even though it is really a 3.75 for me. I would recommend with some caution.
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
Sep 04, 2015 Hannah rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

I was very very close to giving this a higher star rating.
"The Seamstress" was a very detailed and authentic feeling historical novel with slowly evolving characters and an undercurrent of thematic symbolism. (Let's be honest, when most of us say we like "historical fiction", we actually mean we like fun romantic stories with old fashioned costumes. "The Seamstress" wasn't that). Unfortunately as much as I admired the book, there was something I had to factor into the review:. The au
Wow. This book was simply wonderful - and the first book to be placed on my "best of 2011" bookshelves. It was so good that it will be a few days before I pick up another book - I want to let these characters linger before I move on.

The story takes place in Brazil from about 1925 through 1935. Two sisters from a mountain town end up living very different lives. Luzia, who has a deformity in her arm due to a fall as a child, is part of a rebel group led by a man called The Hawk. Emilia marries in
Drayton Bird
Apr 04, 2012 Drayton Bird rated it really liked it
I nearly didn't read this. Got it out of the library, then thought the cover suggested it might be just sloppy romance.

But it isn't, and I'm glad I read it.

It's the first book I've read (a sad admission) about the cangaceiros of Brasil. It covers the early part of the C20th when the countryside was still run by the Colonels - but landowners who operated rather like medieval barons.

It is indeed romance - but a great deal more than that. The cangaceiros are folk heroes who (depending on what you
Mar 13, 2011 Elli rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Follows the lives of two orphan girls raised by their aunt in the back country in Brazil through their lives roughly between World War I and the beginning of World War II, through the great depression and the effects of an usually cruel drought in 1932. They are born into poverty, and their lives follow different trends as adulthood approaches and an accident leaves one sister somewhat maimed. And they are trained to be seamstresses as this is what their aunt did. They also can r ...more
Dec 26, 2015 KeTURah rated it it was amazing
I tried to read this book slowly to languish in it's beautifully written prose, and although I finally had to finish it, it was well worth it. The English is sprinkled with Portuguese, and the words become familiar and natural the more you read. The story is so authentic and so engrossing that I not only expect Brazil to be this way, I feel as if I could know the characters in real life. The women are so realistic that I feel as if I might be acquainted with them in my own life; might know them ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Stephanie rated it really liked it
My international book club in Sao Paulo just finished reading and discussing this book. Since we live in Brazil, it was very interesting to us to learn more about the history of Brazil in such an interesting way. For me, the story (loosely based on true events) highlighted 2 very different lives of separated sisters. One, a society woman in an unfulfilled marriage living in the coastal town of Recife, and the other, her sister living in the hard scrubland as a cangaceiro, or bandit.

To me, the s
Apr 08, 2009 Bri rated it it was amazing
This book is lovely! It's one of those books where I read the last page, and without hesitation, immediately went back to the first page and began rereading. The author truly defines writing as a craft, where each word and each sentence is placed with great care, and the layers of the plot weave in and out gracefully. I wanted to be both Emilia and Luzia, and I wanted to love The Hawk. I wanted to live in Brazil in 1930, and I can honestly say, there is not any other book that has done that! Thi ...more
Janice Williams
This book was on my husband, Mark Van Aken Williams', bookshelf. When we unpacked our boxes after our move, we came across this and Mark said I would probably like it. He was right, "The Seamstress" is a really interesting, absorbing book about a place, time, and people I knew nothing about. And it focuses on two sisters, which is a theme I like as well. These two sisters are on completely different paths in life, and their lives are also determined by the men they are with. How they cope with t ...more
Oct 19, 2009 Tina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out great and really had me intrigued. But it started dragging on and on about halfway through. I really got sick of all the gory details of the congaceiros' killings. The politics were a bit uninteresting for me. Maybe if I knew more about Brazil. I usually love historical novels but this was not a winner for me. I don't feel as though I gained much from having read it. You could tell it was researched well. :) If nothing else I learned a little bit about Brazil during the dep ...more
Raquel Rangel
Jul 22, 2016 Raquel Rangel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lo leí muy rápido, me gusto muchísimo, nos traslada a tiempos actuales...en Venezuela
Jul 04, 2015 Alice rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2014 Velocity6 rated it did not like it
Absolutely horrible
May 26, 2014 Gretchen rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
I kept wanting to love this book, but just couldn't.

It's a great examination of the conflict between city and country, written against the history of Brazil in the 20s and 30s, and focused on 2 sisters, Emilia and Luzia.
Both girls have destinies beyond the small country town where they are born. Life tears them apart, and we follow their development as the book alternates viewpoints. I really enjoyed learning more about Brazil in this time, and I liked seeing how its conflicts were impacted by
Ashley W
This book was very painful to read. I only read up to page 200 and I couldn't go anymore. I usually love long books because I love getting absolutely lost in them, but not this one. I got really bored really quickly. I've never read anything set in Brazil before so I was excited to start reading this, and I'm sad I ended up not liking it.

The novel follows two sisters: Emilia, the girl who dreams of more than a country life and ends up marrying into a moneyed family where her mother-in-law treat
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