The story line is confusing because you incessantly switch back and forth in time. On top of this I hSorry, but I did not like this book. Here is why.
The story line is confusing because you incessantly switch back and forth in time. On top of this I had difficulty with the Portuguese names. You also switch between historical data and personal perspectives.
Way too much repetition. How many times are we told that Lampiao (Virgulino Ferreira da Silva, 1897-1938) became a bandit because he sought revenge for the unjust killing of his father? This is not the only example.
The book is filled with violence, horrendous crimes, savage cruelty and corruption. Not just by the bandits but also the corrupt police forces. In fact the people felt closer to Lampiao than to their police. He stood for "justice" more than the police did, more than the authorities or any of those holding the reins. I concede that the book does describe vividly and accurately the deplorable reality of life in the Brazilian outback of the Sertao, one of the four sub-regions of the northeast of Brazil in the 1920s and 30s. Overpopulated, semi-arid hinterlands. You end with the death of Lampiao and his beloved, Maria Bonita (Maria Déia), fourteen years his junior. Heads on poles. It is graphic. I can in fact excuse the grizzly details, because that was the reality. It is just that you are also told of Lampiao's "love of life" - of dance, of music, of colored silks, of good food, of lovemaking. I never felt this love; it was always spoken of as LOST loved. Something once had but now gone. You never feel the happiness. Instead you feel loss and regret and hopelessness, because it is gone. Because it was futile. The couple had a child .....but her fate is doomed too. The book explains why. The book tries to get inside the heads of both Lampiao and Maria Bonito, but I never saw any happiness in this book or in them. You so need to feel it to balance the horror.
I didn't enjoy the melancholic tone of the language. The writing is too drippy, too emotional, too wordy.
Carla Mercer-Meyer's narration of the audiobook emphasized all the weaknesses of the writing. I would not recommend listening to the audiobook, particularly if Portuguese names are going to give you trouble, as they did me. ...more
First impression: There is beauty in the words. You feel the North Korean war refugee's aloofness in his new country, Brazil. The distance he feels anFirst impression: There is beauty in the words. You feel the North Korean war refugee's aloofness in his new country, Brazil. The distance he feels and his reticence is palpable. Narration by the author adds to the lines' impact. A blanket of quiet overlays the story.
People can talk without words. What is not said can speak louder than what is said. And what a person does doesn’t always reflect what they are really saying. (view spoiler)[When Santi returns after Kiyoshi’s death and steals and slashes the dummy, he doesn’t return to steal. He doesn’t return to destroy. He returns because he is devastated by Kiyoshi’s death! (hide spoiler)]This book captures that. It draws a world of silence and solitude that does speak and does convey a message. You watch what happens. You feel the atmosphere. There is a distance to all that happens and to the characters themselves. The manner in which this is achieved is artistically done. Beautiful rather than boring. You are drawn in. Slowly, slowly this North Korean war refugee assimilates and comes to feel at home in his new country, in an unnamed village in Brazil. S-l-o-w-l-y the past recedes, the memories blur and he melts into a new life. You read this book to feel his dislocation, the alienation of one who leaves one country for another. Leaving both horrible memories and good memories, sort of like stapling up picture upon picture until the pictures at the bottom aren’t gone but are superseded by others that are newer, stronger, more vibrant. You cannot just rip out those pictures at the bottom, can you?
Is the ending realistic? No, maybe not, but I am OK with that. You do not read this book to follow the plot line from A to Z. Neither does the story follow a chronological order. Memories come and go, and that is how you learn of the past
An atmospheric novel, to be read to understand how it is to be completely alone in a new world. You never start from scratch, since we all have our own pasts. ...more
I am adding this not b/c the topic draws me, but b/c I have read the author's book Bel Canto and thought the writing was excellent. I did read anotherI am adding this not b/c the topic draws me, but b/c I have read the author's book Bel Canto and thought the writing was excellent. I did read another one too about her ill friend, the title of which escapes me. Kirkus says this new one is as good as Bel Canto. Is it really? YAY for new books on Kindle!...more
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 historiDefinitely 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, was real.
Through page 543: Oh I am getting terribly angry - not at the book but at the politics. Always politics is scewered. First there are wonderful goals and promises, and then individual pockets are lined and people seek personal gains. I find frightening the popular interest paid to the possibility of measuring an individual's cranium to distinguish inferior from superior superior human beings. This is Brazil, not Hitler's Germany. Was such reasoning making headway in Brazil too? I have to get more information. The story's plot is filled with suspense.
Through page 488: Two things - i am captivated by the detailed description of what happened during the drought of 1933. The plight of the refugees is horrendous. You learn about Brazilian history in a manner that is effortless. Secondly, the plot has the reader rapidly turning the pages. What will happen? So why is the book good? Well you learn alot. You care about the two sisters, and the plot keeps you on the edge of your chair.
Through page 412: I continue to like this book - A LOT! The two sisters seem so real, both of them. Like all women and men too, life gives you some gifts and witholds others. You are so lucky and yet there is always more or something that is impossible to grasp and which you so want. I like how the politics and the election of the president, the changing lives of the colonels and cangarceiros are intertwined in the characters's lives. Brazilian life and how it was changing and being modernized is all there. The Hawk and how he is changing is fascinating. The writing is fabulous, but to understand you have to quote huge sections, you have to know the people, you have to know what has happened and I don't like giving spoilers.
Through page 347:In the beginning this was just a very good story and I didn't feel I was learning much - well that has definitely changed. You learn about northern Brazilian nature, the dry parched lands that turn into a fantastic garden over night after rain. You learn lots about Brazilian social life in the cities, about the new class and the old class about the politics of Gomez and how the lands were run by varying colonels and the supporting/warring the cangraceiros. I find this interesting. The reader comes to care for both sisters, Emilia and Luzia - two very strong women who deal each with their own particular marital problems. Two strong women with heads on their shoulders who also have emotional wants and needs. I admire them both, each is special in her own way, although I do happen to feel more for Luzia! I do not think I could take the high life society of Recife. Reading about the Brazilian Carnaval festivities was also fun, but more fun to read about than to be there.
Through page 300: The author knows when the reader cannot stomach more. Now we have left Luzia and Hawk and the cangarceira to follow Emilia in Recife with her husband. Don't worry - no spoiler, this is all written about in the general book synopsis. The writing is fun, quirky and I love the description of the house and people. Mostly I love the servants, the people who really know the idiosyncracies of all the family members. So Emilia is taking her first bath in a Victorian white porcelain tub with lion's feet and conversing with her maid, who is scrubbing her back: Raimunda, her maid, says, "You shouldn't ask me questions." E replies: "Why not?" R:"Because you shouldn't" E:"But you asked me questions. " R:"And if you had any sense you wouldn't have answered." E:"I don't understand.....I thought you were being friendly." R:"It is not my place to be friendly. And it's not yours to allow me to be......It is not my place to be giving advice. I am not your momma. But when you are surrounded by frogs, you'd better learn to jump." I like Raimunda!
Through page 186: Oh and I forgot to mention the fire baloons and the momentos carried inside the bandits clothing, their signigicance!.
Now I have experienced what the cangarceira - true-life Brazilian "bandits" did din the late 1920s. Their behavior was often based on revenge and both physical and mentally tuned. Their actions were most revealing in how they they blended the physical and psychological. As always physical is often less devastating than the psychological undertones. Remember the author did not dream this up, it is based on fact. Very hard to stomachand very often followed by acts of understanding. The acts were followed by revenge and reprisals as is often seen in human behvior.
Through page 115: What to say - I love it! Thank you Lee. You picked just the right book for me. The writing is magical. I think, I have to quote something, but this doesn't work. I would have to quote paragraphs. You have to know who these people are to understand. I would have to explain and explain and explain, but if you read the book you understand perfectly what the author is saying. I adore the depiction of the different personalities. The two sisters are so different and both are so wonderful. The Hawk - I love him too. Sorry, I shouldn't, but I do! The sexual inuendos are perfect. And the book has just begun! This is pure enjoyment. I wouldn't say it is teaching me much, but you do learn about the political unrest and the cangarceira (bandits) that really did exist in Brazil in the 20s/30s and the landscape of norteastern Brazil. For once I do not care if it teaches me or not; I like it anyhow.
Through page 86: Delightful, engaging and the author is a wonderful story-teller. The style of writing is in the vein of magical realism. The writing somehow reminds me of Isabelle Allende's House of Spirits. The life of these people in a small town outside of Recife, Brazil during the 1930s is something very new to me, but I have not read much South American literature other than Allende's. Despite this, I have no trouble falling into their world. It is very rough and gritty, but at the same time it has a magical beauty. I have difficulty explaining the atmosphere conjured by the author. The relationship between the two sisters is poignantly evoked. Real sisters: playful bickering, each having diametrically different characters and yet both still caring for and needing the other. They understand each other as only sisters can.
Here goes Lee, I am so excited to be starting this! Yipee, it even has a map! ...more
Read this book. It is exciting and interesting from start to finish. It truly makes one understand the value of genetic multiplicity in the Amazon andRead this book. It is exciting and interesting from start to finish. It truly makes one understand the value of genetic multiplicity in the Amazon and in the entire world. We cannot/ should not loose the potential that this tropical area offers. In addition, Theodore Roosevelt becomes a real person to the reader. What a guy! There are few who compare to this marvelous person. ...more
I highly recommend The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, but not to everyone. The title and the book descript I highly recommend The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, but not to everyone. The title and the book description may give the impression that the central theme of the book is a love story. That is false. Part of the book is certainly a wonderful adventure story about a woman who travels practically alone through the Amazon basin to reach her husband stranded in French Guiana, but this portion of the boo takes up only the last seventy pages. The love story and the adventurous trip from Rioabamba (near Quito, Ecuador) down the eastern slopes of the Andes, through the tropical rain forests of the Amazon along the river to its mouth and then to Cayenne, French Guiana is not the central theme of the book. That is important to understand when you choose to read or not read this book. This portion is exciting, and it does put a wonderful end to the book.
What primarily is this book about? It is about a scientific and exploratory expedition carried out in the 1730s and 40s by the French. It is about the Spanish conquest of South America, conquistadors, Hernando Cortés and Francisco Pizarro. It is about the conquest of the Aztecs and the Incas. It is about the plants and animals and minerals and gems found around Quito and the upper stretches of the Amazon. In the pages of this book you will find a lot of history and information about both Spanish and native South American beliefs and practices. You are sure to be fascinated by the description of indigenous plants and animals.
It is important to note that the expedition took place during the Enlightenment. Although the expedition’s primary goal was to measure the distance of one degree of latitude, many other scientific areas were also to be studied, all in the spirit of the era. New scientific instruments were to be tested, to discover the shape of the earth, to discover more precise knowledge of the laws of gravity. Temperature's effect on metals was to be quantified. Botanical varieties were to be documented, in the hope of finding new products and medicines.
The expedition was also to spy. The French wanted to discover what the Spanish had hidden in its Viceroyalty of Peru, as Spain’s territory in South America was called. (Don’t think just Peru. The area extended over a huge chunk of South America up to the Caribbean coastline.) There were so many amazing stories: a city of gold (El Dorado), huge Amazon women warriors, men with feet that were put on backwards, and the women were beauties. What was true? What were imaginary tales? The French wanted to know.
This is a book about science, history, politics and the natural resources found in South America. It is informative. It is engaging, and the end does include an exciting adventure. There are numerous maps, depicting the rivers and tributaries in the Amazon basin. There are maps showing the travel routes followed. There are pictures in the book from museum and private collections illustrating tools, scenes, plants and animals. There is an index and a bibliography. There are direct quotes from sources. The subject matter is very well documented. I never found it boring.
I have two complaints. The first I have already pointed out – a deceptive title and book description. Secondly, the mathematical reasoning meant to explain the expedition’s scientific goals are confusing. Although the triangulation, base lines measured and tools employed are extensively described, I still feel I do not always understand why a given measurement would prove the truth or falsity of the scientific principle being questioned. Please note, these sections can be skimmed, but I tried to understand. I read them several times, and I only sort of understood, on a general level .
Despite my two complaints, I very much enjoyed reading this book. I have given it four stars. In my view it is very well written. ...more