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Flesh and Bone and Water

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  482 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Brazilian-born doctor André Cabral is living in London when one day he receives a letter from his home country, which he left nearly thirty years ago. A letter he keeps in his pocket for weeks, but tells no one about.

The letter prompts André to remember the days of his youth - torrid afternoons on Ipanema beach with his listless teenage friends, parties in elegant Rio apar
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 23rd 2017 by Viking
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3.61  · 
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 ·  482 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a short novella that looks at the life of Brazilian GP, Dr Andre Cabral, in the present in 2013 London and a letter that triggers memories and regrets of his 17 year old self in 1980s Brazil. He left Brazil almost 30 years ago and never returned. It could be viewed as a coming of age novel for a young man who had lost his mother in a car accident and whose plastic surgeon father was a cold and distant figure for whom he worked after school. For him, he confidently expects the world to op ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Flesh and Bone and Water is short and focused, just like its title. Andre was born in Brazil and now works in London. Through his first person narrative, we learn about what led him to leave Brazil permanently in his late teens. This was a good book to read on a lazy Sunday. Andre is flawed both as a teenager and as an adult, but there's something sympathetic about him. Through his eyes, I felt like I was getting a glimpse at a slice contemporary Brazil -- including a micro exploration of issues ...more
Navidad Thélamour
Luiza Sauma’s Flesh and Bone and Water read like a primitive high school essay that could possibly have be entitled: “My Memories of Growing Up and How I Ended Up Here.” Honestly, that title makes it sound a bit more interesting than it was for most of the novel. While there were a few glimmering moments of promise, this horse never truly broke out into a run for me—there were times when it never even left the stable.

While this novel is, at its core, a novel about race in class—the line between
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The dark yet dazzling nature of 1980s Brazil is detailed with rich language and vibrant episode in this novel; the image of a stratified and racist society developed through the relationship between a well off young man and his empregada, a young black woman who left school to work as a housekeeper. The small anecdotes about Andre's family life and local experiences are where the beauty and colour reside. Yet these are the best parts of the book. Andre falls quickly into melodrama, it's all teen ...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
This was a beautifully written novel about one man dealing with the regrets and mistakes of his life's journey. The story follows two time periods: when André was a foolhardy teenager on the cusp of manhood and when he is a middle aged man dealing with the breakdown of his marriage.

I absolutely adored the way this book was plotted. The pacing was just perfect. The whole novel had a glorious bittersweet tone to it and it also had an amazing power to shock and create strong reactionary feelings.

Dayle (the literary llama)
I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If ever there were a case of cover love, it’s this. Thankfully the cover accurately reflects the rich setting of the story as well as the sense of enchantment that the main character found himself under. However there were parts of the story that didn’t fully enchant me.

Sauma is definitely an author to keep an eye on. I loved the way she wrote and the feeling she could evoke with her descriptions. The he
Andre Cabral left Brazil almost 30 years ago trying to runaway from a past he has tried hard to forget. Until an unexpected letter from the daughter of the family maid arrives and starts him down a path he thought he wouldn't have to revisit. This is a fast and enjoyable read and the descriptions of Brazil are beautiful.

Thank you Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Flesh and bone and water: a powerful story of youth and privilege in Rio de Janeiro

This review is also published here:

Luiza Sauma’s debut novel lends weight to the saying that good things come in small packages; it is only 240 pages long, but packs a hefty emotional punch.

Andre is a middle-aged Brazilian doctor who has lived in London for the past 25 years. He is married with two teenage children and his life is happy and uneventful until the arrival of a
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I warmed to this novel rather slowly, but by the end I was immersed and not quite ready for it to end. It’s the second book I’ve read this year set in Brazil which makes for a fantastic backdrop... just the word “Ipanema” is enticing. There are issues of race and identity mixed with a coming of age story and a man desperately in search of himself.

I love a novel told from both the past and present, and while it took me half the book to connect emotionally with Andre, I felt all the more rewarded
Anabel (inthebookcorner)
Just finished this one and really enjoyed it. It a very quick read and you'll find yourself easily flipping through the pages. This is the story of a boy named Andre, living his teen years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The story alternates between the past and the future. Decades later, Andre will have to revisit the past that he's ran away from. I loved the atmospheric details of Brazil, and the inclusion of so much culture. There's also a twist towards the end that I didn't see coming.
Eric Anderson
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Something about the liquid imagery and cryptic title drew me to this novel. London has a big Brazilian community so I was curious to read about that cross-cultural experience as well. The novel centres around Andre, a Brazilian man in his later years who has lived his whole adult life in the UK. But he was raised in a privileged white upper-middle class family in Rio de Janeiro. There his family had a maid or an “empregada” named Rita and her mixed-race daughter Luana who also served the family. ...more
The main theme of this book is about race and class distinctions in Brazil. There is a distinctive difference between the haves and the have nots – and Andre was certainly a rich white ‘have,’ while Luana is the poor dark-skinned ‘have not’. For me Andre was a typical spoiled rich boy, used to having his own way but bored with the aimlessness of parties and living behind the walls of his gated community. As he looks for a diversion his adolescent lust falls on the beautiful Luana who cooks and c ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
This was one of those books where I could admire the quality of the writing without being particularly moved by the story or the characters. In fact, the story felt rather slight even for quite a short book. The author’s choice of a male narrator was interesting (and quite brave) but I’m not sure I got any additional insight into the character as a result.

The book flits between past and present as Andre, born in Brazil but now living in London, reminisces about his time growing up in Rio and his
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting in places. Kinda predictable in others. Lots of teen sex and melodrama. Men's sex fantasies are boring and tired. Why not write this story from her perspective? That would be waaaaaaay more interesting. A totally new world for me, which is always a plus.

Clare Fisher
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-love
This is one of those rare books where you're as desperate to reach the end as you are for it never to end; you need to know what happens next but don't want to rush through the quietly beautiful sentences. Sauma's writing is economical yet vivid; she manages to smuggle a huge range of emotions and experiences beneath its taut surface. By focussing on one eventful period in a middle-aged Brazilian doctor's youth, Sauma raises universal questions about race, class and gender, identity and belongin ...more
Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
3.5 stars!!

Andre, the son of a surgeon, who lives a life of privilege with two maids, Rita and Luana. They take care of him, his younger brother and their father - especially so after the death of their mother. Andre's father works all the time and is rarely home. And Andre finds himself drawn more and more to Luana as he gets older. Then one day she disappears and he takes off to travel the world, before settling into London. Three decades later, he starts receiving cryptic letters from Luana a
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for_review
I would like to thank Scribner Books for sending me a free copy of Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma.
Although I wasn't really invested in the novel from the beginning, the story unfolded in a way that I was pleasantly surprised with a twist. Well, maybe pleasant isn't the word, but it made the story much more interesting. After the twist on the story, I couldn't put the book down!
I'd recommend it to most of my friends who would like to learn some Brazilian Portuguese vocabulary. It would
Emir Ibañez

This book accompanied me for a day and a half, and I must admit that it was one of those companies that you know you're going to miss.

This is André's story, a doctor who is currently living in London, has two daughters and is separating from his wife. André begins to receive letters from Luana, the daughter of the maid with whom he was raised and who had not had contact since he left Rio de Janeiro after finishing high school. These letters provoke a surge of memo
Jay Sinkovitz
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Flesh and Bone and Water sure makes the case for me to never visit Rio!

The story and setting were very unique, I could almost feel the sweat dripping and feel the stank, disgusting humidity.

The book was easy to read, like smooth clockwork. One moment in the book filled me with shock and surprise, but before that moment and after that moment were truly quite boring, unfortunately.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Learned also that there seems to be a lot of racism in Brazil as well.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I started this I could feel criticisms boiling in my head but as I wrote down a quote and another and another it all dissipated.

Read this in less than 2 days because I HAD to know what happened. Couldn't get enough.

It's a beautiful story following a Brazilian family after the mother dies in a car accident, but there is much left unsaid between the remaining father and sons. The narrator, the eldest, has a fabulous voice has he flits between his current life in London and his memories with
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Elements of Flesh And Bone And Water reminded me of Wasp Days by Erhard von Buren in that both books explore the memories of older men looking back to their youths and neither of the men is presented as a particularly likeable character. Here Sauma has her GP Andre Cabral remembering his privileged childhood and adolescence Brazil and the events which saw him exile himself from his country. I loved the portrayals of 1980s Brazil! Richly detai
Roman Clodia
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
A short book, a novella really, that oscillates between two moments of crisis in the life of André: one when he was a 17-year old in Brazil just after the death of his mother; and the other 30 years later in London. With his marriage in tatters, he receives a letter unexpectedly from the daughter of his family maid, and travels back in his mind to unravel dark family secrets.

An engaging tone to the writing draws us in quickly but the plot trajectory is familiar from more melodramatic plots with
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I first attempted Flesh and Bone and Water two summers ago, having been captivated by the cover. Discouraged by the $27 price tag at Barnes and Noble, I settled on the library book. Somewhere around page 50, I gave up. Fast forward to 2019 and I decided to order it from the library again (instead of buying it for cheap on Amazon). The conclusion to this unnecessarily long journey is disappointment. I don't remember what exactly made me want to ~reacquaint~ myself with this book so badly, bu
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partner-read
I received a surprise copy of FLESH AND BONE AND WATER by Luiza Sauma from Scribner right before release. I dove right into it without knowing the synopsis. It was a quick read at just under 300 pages- so beautifully written! Sauma proves that you don't need a long novel to have well-developed characters, landscape, and deception.

Andre is a Brazilian teenager whose father is a successful plastic surgeon - they live in a life of privilege and wealth with multiple homes they shuttle between. At th
Maria Papadopoulos
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in less than a day. I really enjoyed it, especially because I am infatuated with Brazilian culture and it among other things really gets you into what it is like growing up in Brazil. It is an easy read and although slightly predictable gives a couple twists in the end that you wouldn't expect. The five stars comes because the book placed me into the life of a Brazilian boy at 17 successfully. The writing of the author was beautiful, from the big city of Rio to the small rur ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
I love a strong debut! André Cabral flees Brazil as a young man and establishes himself in London. But he can't run from his past and, after 30 years, letters start arriving that unravel him. Sauma cuts across time cleverly and we're transported to Brazil where a young André makes some complex choices and back to London where adult André faces the consequences of those choices. I was completely hooked. The 'twist' is one you've read before but it still took my breath away.
TW: Incest

Incest storylines are a hard pass for me. My bigger issue with this book though is that it feels like it's written by a dudebro who is well aware of the privilege of his gender and social status and exploits that power dynamic. There's definitely some internalized misogyny here. I think there are better ways to explore flawed characters without using women as a plotline for a middle-aged man's reminiscence.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A coming of age novel about a Brazilian teen and the results of a brief affair with the family household help, a young girl from a village near the Amazon river. I have seen similar plot themes before, in the classics and in spin offs of the classics, but this modern novel is set in Rio, the Amazon regions, and in Paris.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the descriptions of life in Brazil in the 1980’s as it was new territory for me. Overall the story was a bit predictable and the protagonist was not a particularly likeable character and perhaps a bit emotionally shallow. I found it hard to believe he maintained such an emotional attachment to a girl that he really appeared to be more infatuated with than in love with as a teenager.
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Goodreads Librari...: Could you please change a few things for this book? 3 14 May 06, 2018 12:48PM  

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Luiza Sauma was born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in London. Her first novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, received widespread critical acclaim and was listed by the Telegraph as one of their 'ones to watch' for 2017.

Luiza worked at the Independent on Sunday for several years before becoming a novelist. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, where she won t
“I made the same mistake that people have been making since the beginning of time, thinking that you can change yourself just by going somewhere else. Meu Deus, I sound like a self-help book.” 0 likes
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