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The Air You Breathe

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The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride--and each woman's fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes--and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

449 pages, Hardcover

First published August 21, 2018

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Frances de Pontes Peebles

9 books318 followers

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5 stars
2,167 (26%)
4 stars
3,455 (42%)
3 stars
2,053 (24%)
2 stars
439 (5%)
1 star
106 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,092 reviews
Profile Image for Christina Loeffler.
143 reviews17.3k followers
August 22, 2018
4 'nobody puts Samba in a corner' stars!!

We open with Dores - an orphan living and working on a sugar plantation in Brazil. To say she's had a rough go of it would the the understatement of the year. Graca is the new owners daughter - she is charming, lively, spunky, sassy, incredibly willful and privileged and spoiled to a fault. Dores and Graca form an unlikely and unshakable bond that will carry them through the hardships of the 1930s and 40s in Brazil and Hollywood. Through the rise and fall of Graca becoming an esteemed performer known as Sofia Salvador. A bond that will stay with Dores for the entirety of her life, despite Graca's untimely demise.

When we are young, we give ourselves completely. We allow our first friends or first lovers or first songs inside us, to become a part of our unformed being, without ever thinking of the consequences, or of their permanence within us.

This is told solely from the POV of Dores - she has aged and is facing the end of her life. As she reflects back on the ups and downs, the most notable contribution to her life is Graca. Peebles wove two incredibly complex and layered characters. Their relationship is full of juxtapositions - pain and heartbreak, beauty and rebirth.

While the story is told solely from Dores' point of view, Peebles did an excellent job of highlighting the multi-dimensional character that is Graca/ Sofia Salvador. At times she seems vain, vapid and one note, at others she seems to have a depth unreachable by Dores, a pain only a true artist can understand and a soul that truly needs to be loved.

We all carry our burdens differently, and in ways that surprise us. The choices we make, in life as in the studio, are never isolated, though they might appear to be as we are making them. Nothing stands alone - no note, no melody, no beat, no decision - they all flow together in the end. They must.

The Air You Breathe is a supreme example of a character driven novel. While the plot has its fair share of intrigue what grabs you and keeps you there is the gut-wrenching story of the bonds of friendship, the trials of privilege, racism, fame and fortune.

There is a heavy focus on music in general - most notably the Samba and it's evident not only in the words written but in the way they were written as well. To me, the sign of an excellently written character driven novel is that you notice that characters come in every form. Peebles created secondary characters out of music, out of the Samba, the setting, the time period and it's impossible not to get swept up in it.

We all take things for granted that come too easily.

This ultimately loses a star for me because while I did feel transported and Peebles wove two intricate characters and a beautiful story things got a bit bogged down for me by the sheer amount of detail there was. There were a few times throughout that I wanted to get the show on the road and have a bit more forward progression in the story. I think if Peebles had cut down a bit on various setting details it would've made for a more fluid and concise read.

This was truly marvelous and anyone with an appreciation of historical fiction, tales of friendship and betrayal, or a love of music would enjoy this. The story-telling and prose were beautiful, whimsical and solid all at the same time. I am left marveling at the talent Peebles showed in this novel.

I completed this as a Traveling Sisters read. Thank you to Edelweiss for a copy of this ARC.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,192 followers
August 22, 2018
samba. : a Brazilian dance of African origin with a basic pattern of step-close-step-close and characterized by a dip and spring upward at each beat of the music; also : the music for this dance. (Merriam-Webster dictionary online)

I felt as if this story was like a samba as it too was characterized by dips and upward springs in the lives of two complex characters as they stepped through their lives, their journey from a sugar cane plantation in Brazil to the streets and clubs of Rio, to Hollywood. It’s so well written, we are taken there to these places where a complicated friendship grows and flourishes as these two women step together at times and away at others. Dores, an orphan with no real identity other than as a kitchen girl becomes the unlikely friend of Graca, born to a family of means who now own the sugar plantation. As young girls they discover music when Graca’s mother takes them to a concert. This is the beginning for them, leading them to their destinies as artists, each in their own right - Graca, the singer and Dores, the song writer. For me one of the most poignant moments of the book was this discovery. As the narrator of this story, Dores tell us : “ How miraculous then to hear something and know, without any doubt, that it is beautiful.....How incredible then that, despite the precariousness of my existence, despite the coarseness and violence that always threatened to suffocate me, there was this beauty, this grace, that had found me through music and that no one could take from me. This was the gift that music gave to Graca and me that night, and every night afterward: we had something of our own to truly love, and we had each other to share it with.”

This is a story of ambition, identity, passion, love, betrayal, a wonderful piece of historical fiction reflecting 1930’s Brazil and Hollywood of the early 1940’s. I’m not a musician but felt the music!

This was a Traveling Sisters read. Thanks, friends for your thoughts.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead Books through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,779 reviews14.2k followers
August 22, 2018
4.5 Drawn in by the sights and sounds of the 1920's in Brazil and set againt the background of samba music, this is the story of two young girls, who against all odds become successful. Two young women, Dores and Graca, raised in very different circumstances, but become friends, each other's inspiration and eventual downfall. Their journey , the people they meet, an amazing story to follow, so much history followed in the time period when they are evolving as musicians and don't writers.

The music, incredible lyrics, the descriptions, the emotions, want and need almost viscerally felt by this reader. The descriptions of the places, their costumes, a book where I felt as if I was part of their journey, rather than just witnessing their struggles and successes. The melancholy tone, felt throughout, the way the story is told by a now elderly Dores, recounting past days, the secrets exposed, the things that were done on the way to Gracas stardom, all drew in this reader. Beautifully told, beautifully written. An absolutely amazing book.

Dores is based on the singer/songwriter Chevela Vargas and Graca is a mde up character loosely modeled on Carmen Miranda, and her path to fame. To these people music was everything, song lyrics are parsed throughout the novel, and music would be what is left.

A sisters read that we all seemed to embrace favorably. Thanks, ladies.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
677 reviews1,320 followers
September 15, 2018
3.5 stars. This book will have you humming to the beat of samba music!

This is the story of Graca and Dores – two girls from two different parts of society. They have an intense friendship filled with fierce love and ruthless rivalry. They need and depend on each other in different ways, both feeling incomplete without the other.

The story begins on a sugar plantation in Brazil that Graca’s family owns. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this part of the story. Dores is an orphan who has been ‘adopted’ by the head of the kitchen help. Outspoken, outgoing, spoiled Graca develops an immediate connection and bond with Dores and the two girls forge a unlikely friendship.

The girls’ journey take them through their artistic careers and dreams of becoming samba stars – Graca the singer and Dores the songwriter. Many characters are introduced along the way, all the while, the samba music a sort of character in itself.

While I enjoyed this novel, I did find the story to be somewhat drawn out and riddled with too much detail. There were parts I found dragged and felt somewhat repetitive. However, I did enjoy learning about this time in history and felt the samba music was such a great background theme.

This was a Traveling Sister read. We all enjoyed this story and the change of pace from our usual books. To find this review, along with the other Traveling Sister reviews, please visit our blog at:


A big thank you to Edelweiss, Riverhead Books and Frances de Pontes Peebles for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

The Air You Breathe is available now!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews587 followers
October 13, 2018
I haven’t read a book about the friendship of two women this absorbing-addicting-with amazingly stunning writing this good since Elena and Lila in the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante!!!!!

Going hiking this morning and a very busy weekend - was in SF yesterday- and back again tomorrow and must write a review for “Bitter Orange”, by Claire Fuller one of these days ....as it’s an alive species screaming it’s own language in my head 24 hours a day - during my dreams too...
and mixed with this gorgeous novel .... I’ve got brain overload ....
but as only readers understand intimately...the feeling is magnificent!!!!

More on this book and one of these days “Bitter Orange” soon.

Miss my friends here!!!!!
Happy reading!!!!! 💕

September 15, 2018
Traveling Sisters Group Read

Lindsay and I read The Air You Breathe with four of our Traveling Sisters and we all really loved this glorious, rich and soulful story of friendship.

We all loved the vivid and colorful feel we got for the setting and lively time.  Frances de Pontes Peebles takes us through an intense and emotional, journey of a complex bond between friends and their love and ambition for Samba music.  We follow them through their path to fame.  We are taken to boozy Brazilian bars to the glamor of Hollywood.

Frances de Pontes Peebles does a great job here creating well developed different characters from each other with Dores and Graca.  The rich characters climbed into our hearts and we could feel their ambition, treachery, loss, excitement and the price they paid for their ambition and fame.

We highly recommended this story to lovers of Historical fiction that enjoy a strong bond between friends and their passion for their love of music.

Thank you to Edelweiss, Penguin Publishing Group and Frances de Pontes Peebles for a copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,349 reviews3,004 followers
August 9, 2018
This was a beautifully written book. I really felt like the author transported me to 1930s Brazil and with such an emphasis on music, the book had a lyrical quality. From the get go it was easy to get caught up in nine-year-old Dores's story line. She's an orphan on a sugar plantation and for the most part she is forced to take care of herself. She develops an unlikely friendship with Graca, the daughter of the plantation owner. The two are complete opposites but develop a bond over their love of music.

This story was much more focused on character development than plot. That's not to say nothing goes on in terms of story as the action goes from the plantation, the streets of Rio de Janeiro, and eventually to Hollywood. But to me this was a story about friendship more than anything. It's a complicated friendship as at times it resembles more of a frenemy type relationship. I read this book a few weeks ago and I still find myself thinking about the two of them. Definitely recommend if you are in the mood for something with strong female personalities.

Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
August 28, 2018
4 sometimes what you think you want is not what you want at all stars

“We all take for granted things that come too easily.
That's why I can't let you go--you're always a challenge to me.
Here's my wow to you, here's all I believe:
For you, I'll stay invisible. I"ll be the air you breathe.” Is it possible to stay invisible when what you want is exactly what another has?

The time: the 1930s
The place: Brazil
The characters: Dores and Graca
The tie that bound these girls together: music, friendship, rivalry

Meet Dores, a poor young child, an orphan living on a sugar plantation forced to be the one who cares for herself, with some help from an old cook. Meet Graca, the daughter of the plantation owner. Together these two form a most unlikely friendship, a friendship that will carry them through a lifetime of sorrow, joy, and a wish for things that oftentimes are not to be. These girls are polar opposites and yet they find meaning within their lives, that meaning coming to them through the gift that music often brings. The girls grow, they run away to Rio de Janeiro, where they struggle and yet the music is that ultimate bond which joins them together. It is the way they survive, the way their future seems to move, the way they will share the joys and the many sorrows that life will force onto their paths. Their journey leads them eventually to Hollywood, the world of movies, of the samba, of the success of Graca who sings and dances her way through movie after movie, while Dores the composer of the songs, remains in the background, longing for recognition. Their lives seem to be what they desired, being recognized, being shown that their music their songs are heard and seen and yet it is not ultimately what they thought it would be. Their home, their country beckons, calls to them, and soon they realize that perhaps they can never go home again, never find that recognition they always sought, never to have a place to call their own.

Their friendship suffers along with their success and though they seem to care, there is jealousy, there is the fear and desire to be what the other is. There are the trials that often lead to the downfall of friends and their ability to maintain what had formerly brought them together.

This was a story of characters set against a backdrop of the Rio of long ago, the samba with its dance and musical style, and the fight each of these girls, grown to women, engage in to breathe the same air, to find the same level of success, to hold onto identities which seem to shape them into something they never really wanted to be. It was a story of struggling to find themselves, of looking at the life they so desired, at seeing the sadness that often accompanies those of us who wish for too much, yet always there was the music. For these women and the men who surrounded them, "Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life." (Jean Paul)

Thanks you to Frances de Pontes Peebles, Riverhead Books, and Edelweiss for a copy of this most engaging story.
My reviews can be seen here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
This book was read with The Traveling Sisters group here on Goodreads. As always, we had a riveting conversation that added so much to our understanding of this novel. Many thanks to you dear sisters!
Profile Image for ✨Bean's Books✨.
648 reviews2,925 followers
January 10, 2019
Couldn't do it.
This is the story of the friendship of two girls. One is a skinny little orphan girl, and the other is a daughter of a wealthy sugar baron. Their lives come together by chance and they never let their friendship go. Even in death.
I gave this book over 100 pages before I stopped reading it. Although it is well written and very lush in detail, I felt that the storyline is just not for me. To me the author seems to drone on and on and never seems to get to the point. I found this very irritating and boring to read.
Music is very much a background in this book. You can hear it with almost every word the author writes. And while I love that fact again it is the authors incessant attention to detail down to the finer points and the constant drowning on that has turned my head from this book.
I'm sure others would love to read this book but it is just not for me.
Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
608 reviews5,654 followers
November 21, 2019
A stunning, atmospheric book where music is the heart of the story, but what kept me from loving this book was the main character. I’m sorry, but Dores does not deserve the mistreatment that Graça constantly gave her, and Graça does not deserve any ounce of sympathy from me. She is a vindictive, manipulative, horrible, emotionally abusive person who took and took from others until they were bled dry. She was a horrific person to Dores, and Dores deserved better than that. I wish I could see the appeal of their friendship but all I saw was manipulation and domination. Graça never celebrated or even THANKED Dores for all she did. And that disgusts me.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,545 reviews601 followers
May 2, 2020
[3.5] I enjoyed this vivid novel about the complicated friendship between two women in Brazil - especially when they were girls and just starting out in Lapa. Their story become more disjointed when it moved to the US and not as compelling. But - Frances de Pontes Peebles writes wonderfully and I plan to seek out her other novel.
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.7k followers
August 1, 2018
Why I Love It
by Diane Guerrero

As a child, my life was full of uncertainty, and expressing myself through art was one of the things that made me feel most alive. I remember listening to Kaoma’s “La Lambada” as a kid, and feeling excited by the way it connected familiar melodies with sounds that were entirely new. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but to me those sounds represented the connectivity between human beings. They made me realize that music has the power to bring people and cultures together. So when I read this story of two young women and their shared passion for music, I could relate because I too grew up loving to perform, create, and sing.

The Air You Breathe tells the story of Graça and Dores, two strong girls who bond despite their vastly different upbringings. Their mutual love of samba—one is a singer, the other a composer—takes them to Rio de Janeiro and beyond, where they form an uneasy musical partnership that, at times, becomes a rivalry.

I loved getting to know Graça and Dores, two brave young women who leave the lives they were given behind in pursuit of the lives they desire. This novel has countless nuggets of wisdom that sneak up on you at the perfect moment, but here’s just one that’s stuck with me: “When we are young, we give ourselves completely. We allow our first friends or first lovers or first songs inside us, to become a part of our unformed being, without ever thinking of the consequences, or of their permanence within us.” You’ll love this story of a lifelong friendship—and like me, you might find yourself looking back at the songs or people that first shaped you.

Read more at: https://www.bookofthemonth.com/the-ai...
Profile Image for Celia.
1,229 reviews165 followers
November 24, 2018
The Air You Breathe describes a friendship that starts on a sugar plantation in Brazil, moves to the world of samba in Rio, and then Hollywood, and then back home. It is narrated by Dores, the orphaned servant of Graca. Graca and Dores--- Grace and Sorrow. Friends, yes, but the friendship is dysfunctional. A friendship not soft and warm, but hard and full of sharp edges. I did not hate the book, but did not really like it either. The story did not follow in a readable linear fashion and it frequently diverted from the plot into ramblings of thought by Dor. Many times Dor alluded to Graca's early death. That was annoying, but, ironically, it did keep me reading the book to see how this untimely death occurred.

Music is a central theme of their time in Rio. The friends go from hand-to-mouth poor to famous celebrities. Dor writes the lyrics; Graca, the beauty, performs. The highlight of the book for me was the inclusion of the lyrics of the songs written by Dor. They were all very clever and entertaining.

Life in Brazil occurred in the 30's. Life in Hollywood occurred in the 40's. The story did pick up considerably while they were in Hollywood.

There are many people who thought this book wonderful. So don't just listen to me; get opinions from others.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,320 reviews18 followers
August 26, 2018
4 stars Thank you to Penguin's First to Read and Riverhead books for a chance to read and review this ARC. Publishes Aug 21, 2018.

You never know what you will get when you dive into a book written about another culture. But in this case, I am so very happy that I took the dip. The writing and prose in this book took you right into the 1930's Brazilian experience. It's music, it's culture, it's place in history all came alive. Then as the protagonists traveled to Hollywood in the 1940's, the history of that time period came through vividly.

Told in the words of the elderly Dores, she began her story during her childhood in the hills of Brazil on a sugar plantation. Dores and her Mistress Garca strike out for Rio de Janeiro to make it big as singers. From Rio they travel to Hollywood. Dores ended up in the background, Garca ended up as the star. Dores wrote the music that brought Garca to fame.

Both of these characters were exceptionally written. You saw the complexity of each individual develop as you read. The bond of their friendship was nearly unprecedented. The camaraderie, rivalry, complexity and vanity of their secrets, and desires lead these two characters forward and brought to the page a lasting impression.
Profile Image for Kristen Beverly.
1,155 reviews44 followers
July 8, 2018
I had a hard time with the first 75ish pages of this book. But after Graca and Dor head out on their own, I absolutely fell in love. I devoured this book, which is saying a lot considering it’s hefty & has a lot of meat to the writing. Highly recommend for fellow lovers of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
July 15, 2018

Author, Frances De Pontes Peeples delivers the history of the Samba's rise from hills of Brazil and the songs of the slaves on the sugar plantations to the popularizing of this sound that is uniquely a Brazilian export. Dores and Graca run away from their life and future female roles in an attempt to make it big in radio. Instead they shine brighter playing in the biggest Rio nightclubs and making top-selling records and as they rise to the top, they go on to make history in American movies during World War II. The author does a terrific job of incorporating that time in history (depression era and World War II) with two young women, who challenge all the rules of society to be a part of a multi-racial band that has captured the sound of their culture.

At the start, we meet Dores who is born to an unmarried plantation worker. Being a girl, she isn't seen as being useful but fortunately, she ends up being raised by the single woman, who manages the kitchen of the big house. The original owners go bankrupt and their relatives take over bringing with them their only child, the beautiful Graca. She is very pale and being groomed to marry well. Her mother hires a tutor and includes Dores in the lessons, since she and Graca are playmates. After her death while giving birth; Graca's father sends Graca to a convent school with Dores as her maid and servant. While on a school trip the girls runaway heading to Rio, where the only Brazilian radio station broadcasts. Being unskilled, they make little money and end up in a boarding house in Lapas, the equivalent to East L.A. or Harlem in the U.S.

After a year or so of working menial jobs. They get the attention of the the cross-dressing Madame Lucifer, who is the equivalent of a mafia Don of Rio. Madame Lucifer controls most of what happens in Rio particularly in the arena of entertainment/vices. He likes their act and puts them in all the right clubs to advance their careers.

Eventually, they become inseparable with their band, which consists of black and white members, who are very "popular" with the ladies and one who prefers men. Graca becomes Sofia Salvador and her band is the Blue Moon. The guitar player is Vinicius, who soon becomes part of a the love triangle many times Sofia and Dores fight with Vinicius being the underlying reason. While Sofia becomes renowned throughout Brazil, Dores and Vinicius are behind the scenes writing all the groups hits.

Sofia and the group is offered a small part in a movie during the World War II. She and the band play in a club in the background of a scene. Things turn a little tense when the dark members of the band are not placed in the same hotel as the light skinned members (though Dores is not particularly light, her connection with Sofia gives her a pass). They become a hit in America and get contract after contract to play bit parts in more war romance movies. Sofia is really the star and at times she is the only one, who is awarded a part. The group become drug users as they try to adjust to their demanding schedule. Eventually even Sofia's star starts to fade and the group goes their separate ways when Sofia unexpectedly dies.

Dores narrates the story and is an excellent tour guide. We understand her struggle to be loyal to Sofia and at the same time, accept that she will never be acknowledged for her own great talent. In a way, this book reminds me of the movie, Beaches released in 1988 starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. I liked that movie a great deal and I found this story intriguing though I could have done without all the sexual liaisons which were plentiful, however, I suspect that this will contribute to the books popularity in the U.S. I liked that the author incorporated the lyrics to many of the songs mentioned in the story; she is quite gifted. I would consider reading future stories she writes. The language at times was quite captivating, I wish I had been able to incorporate some in my review, however this is not allowed when reading Advanced Reading Copies.

A big Thank You to the author, Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House for providing me with this Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
February 12, 2021
The Air You Breathe is a richly textured novel of two girls who became friends at a young age. The friendship drives them from the sugar plantations in Brazil, to Rio, and then to Hollywood. That was the road their ambitions and drive would take them as two musicians. But it was also a journey through a interdependent love-hate relationship fueled by affection, envy and pride.

The metamorphosis of Jega to Maria Das Dores began when Graça's father bought the sugar plantation and inherited all the workers that was left behind by the previous owner. Jega worked in the kitchen and like all the rest of the workers, was not allowed to mingle with the new owners in anyway. But Graça had other plans. She was an only child and needed a friend. Jega and Graça were both nine years old. They bonded. Graça insisted that Jega attend classes with her. And that's where everything really changed for Jega.
"Jega was not allowed to want anything beyond the most base desires of the human condition: a meal, a bed, survival. But Dores? She’d been granted a notebook and a pencil, lessons, books, and words. She’d been granted music and an audience. She’d been granted a friend.
Their story began in the early 1930s in Riacho Doce, Brazil and lasted through the 1940s in Hollywood and the devastation of the Second World War. Dores was the narrator. A ninety-five year old women sharing her memories of an era which kept her emotionally shackled and would define the rest of her life.

But it was also the story of the samba. So vividly portrayed that the drumbeats and the soul of this African heritage rushed through the reader's blood as though we were all sitting around the midnight fires on the plantation, where Jega and Graça observed the reed cutters escaping the harsh circumstances of the sugar harvest each day. We were there where a group of musicians congregated in Ciata's back yard in Rio for a roda. We listened in silence when Venicius and Dora sneaked off in the middle of the night to perfect their own version of the samba in their two-person journey into this music.

The roda was a sacred space. People had to be invited. The sambas shared in those circles had mirth, but also a lament, where you were allowed to laugh at our own misery. It was also an expression of humor, rebelliousness, lust, ambition, regret. And love.

"I own the most famous photograph of Sofia Salvador—the Brazilian Bombshell, the Fruity Cutie Girl, the fast-talking, eye-popping nymph with her glittering costumes and pixie-cut hair who, depending on your age and nationality, is a joke, an icon of camp, a victim, a traitor, a great innovator, or even, as one researcher anointed her, “an object of serious study of Hollywood’s Latinas.”
Dores had to tell their story. As she remembered it. For old time's sake, she needed to come clean and perhaps for one last time establish her importance in what was believed to be Graça's legacy.
What is truth? Someone can be completely sincere in their belief of what they saw and when. But another person, seeing the same thing, has a different vision. A red fish becomes purple at sunset, black at night. An ant would call Riacho Doce’s river an ocean. A giant would say it was a trickle. What we see in the world depends so much on who we are at the moment of seeing. Such stories may turn out to be gifts, like bread crumbs leading us out of a dark forest; or they may be terrible diversions, leading deeper into a maze we can never escape.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel. A cultural tour de force, and so much more. Sad to say, the denouement was too drawn out. I felt the ball was dropped. I felt like the story overstayed its welcome, but perhaps if I read the beginning again, I should appreciate the ending more. Of course a second reading of the book will bring yet more insight into the multilayered saga. Brilliant really.

The suspense forced me to finish this book in one sitting. I'm kind of exhausted. It is one of those stories that will linger and bring warm memories of an outstanding reading experience.

Profile Image for Patrycja D. .
28 reviews20 followers
August 26, 2018
My husband was sitting next to me when I finished this one. I closed it and looked at him and his immediate response when he saw the look on my face was "Whats's wrong?" Why? Because I am honestly conflicted about this book.
I averaged out a 4/5 for writing and a 2/5 for historical issues to a 3/5.
On the one hand, it is not at all poorly written and the plot is interesting and engaging. There are some plot devices I have seen before (but someone once said there is no truly original idea anymore) and there is excellent symbolism and foreshadowing. The chapter set up was also very well thought out - I really enjoyed how the chapters were prefaced with a song and a sort of preface from older Dores. The bisexual and lesbian representation was not gimmicky and the bohemian-like atmosphere not overdone. I would give this book a 4/5 on writing alone.
It was extremely disappointing that the author gave absolutely zero credit or acknowledgement to the Brazilian singer(s) that inspired the story. When I read the first page of the book I started googling Sofia Salvador because the opening of the book reminded me of a recent historical figure I have learned about. When Sofia was not coming up in my search I realized the person I was actually looking for was Carmen Miranda.
Pontes Peebles takes huge "inspiration" from Carmen Miranda's life and packages it to fit into Dores and Graca's story. Some examples include:
Miranda's nickname - Brzaillian Bombshell
Her Baiana influence (and backlash over it)
Her samba band's name - Bando da Lua (Moon Band) vs Blue Moon Band
Her songs - "They Say I've Come Back Americanized" vs "Turned Into a Gringa"
Her image - "the lady with the tutti-frutti hat" and The Chiquita Banana Gurl vs Fruity Cutie Girl
She was the first Latin American star to be invited to leave her hand-prints in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. She faced backlash from audiences in Brazail over how her image often made Latin America look to the audiences in the US. She did not return to Brazil for over a decade. She has a museum dedicated to her now in Rio. She was a real historical figure who really went through profound challenges and achieved so much in her life through extremely hard work and vivacity that it makes me really uncomfortable that the author did not do much to honor her memory. The only real mention of her is in a short sentence where the author mentions a list of names of singers she listened to while writing. And Carmen was not even the first name on the list. I think that is preposterous and makes me feel like the author put only half of the work required for this book to be truly original and something she can call her own. Shame.
For those reasons I wish I could give this book a 2/5 but because the writing is not bad I averaged it out to a 3/5.
Profile Image for Monica Kim | Musings of Monica .
514 reviews535 followers
September 6, 2018
When we are young, we give ourselves completely. We allow our first friends or first lovers or first songs inside us, to become a part of our unformed being, without ever thinking of the consequences, or of their permanence within us. — Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe
Before I head out for a long weekend, I wanted to leave with you this review. Frances de Pontes Peebles’ “The Air You Breathe” is an epic, immersive saga of an intense, complicated, volatile friendship fueled by affection, envy, fear, and love of music, spanning decades, across multiple continents. Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood, this novel is told solely from Dores’ POV as she reflects back on her tumultuous life and those around her, some ending in tragedy.
Orphaned Dores was working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when she befriends Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron. They quickly bond over love of mischief & music, and run away together to pursue their love of music, working dangerous & odd jobs at first to have the ends meet. Graca will become the beloved songstress, and Dores the songwriter who quickly rise to fame. At first, everything they dreamed of seems to be coming true, but it isn’t without danger, trials, tribulations, and fierce competition. And they’ll continue to be tested over & over again of their friendship, loyalty, fame, love, and passion. And someone will tragically pay for the unfortunate consequences that inevitably follows at the end.
This novel is epic, tragic, immersive, cinematic, and beautiful. This will probably be adapted into a movie. Although it’s a familiar trope, the breathtaking backdrop of Rio, glamourous Golden Age of Hollywood, intoxicating beats of samba, captivating characters, and lyrical writing made this a wonderful read. However, there are few things I would’ve like to see it done differently. It was too long, almost felt like it long for the sake of being an historical fiction, it didn’t need to over 400 pages, it dragged on bit too long. I also found the language to be too “modern” for a historical fiction. I think it would’ve been more impactful if it were written more “old style.” And lastly, it would’ve been better if the novel featured POV of other characters because it would’ve been helpful to hear from their perspectives as well, especially Graca’s. This is a novel that made me wish books had sound, I would’ve loved to hear their music. Overall, pretty great read, worth a read, especially if you love music & is a wanderlust.
Profile Image for Thaís.
91 reviews310 followers
May 25, 2021
Que livro, meus amigos! Que trabalho de pesquisa, tantas referências ao Rio de Janeiro dos anos 30, tantas coisas na história relacionado à História do Brasil e de tantos outros músicas da época. QUE LIVRO!
Profile Image for Jillian Doherty.
353 reviews66 followers
February 19, 2018
This story is so much more than just Brazil, Samba, and two girls journey through it. It’s a heartbreaking experience reaching from martyrdom, to heart wrenching selfishness that pulls you apart and it drive your further into the story!

I didn’t know much about the musics origin, but here the illustration wines you through dark streets in smoke filled music halls to feel the music rather than hear it.
The girls develop along with their musical lifeline, and bring a story to life as vivid as it is compelling; the coming of age story punctuated with ambition, heart, and following a dream- even through darkest detours.

Galley borrowed from the publisher.
Profile Image for Staci.
459 reviews39 followers
August 27, 2018
So good! I really enjoyed this novel. It was definitely a slow starter but the beginning did a great job of laying the foundation for the complex dynamic between Graca and Dores. Their relationship had a complicated beginning, middle and end. This is an atmospheric and engaging story that gives the reader a glimpse of the political and social climate of Brazil in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s as well as the US in the 40’s, most specifically Hollywood. I’m so glad I chose this one as my BOTM for August, such a neat story with many unique characters. Highly recommend this one!
Profile Image for Erica.
401 reviews15 followers
August 11, 2018
I love a book about female friendships, and I also love complicated female characters. This book has both of those, and it was beautifully written. A gem.
Profile Image for Shweta Panda.
12 reviews8 followers
August 24, 2018
The Air You Breathe revolves around the two girls Dores and Graca, their friendship which will change everything.
Both were from totally different background but it clicks immediately.
The way how the plot moves showing their passion for music makes me feel like they complete each other.
This book is so so beautiful and has musical nature, it will make you feel as if you are there with Dores and Graca during 1930s in Brazil.
Well if you are looking forward for indept character development then this is the one for you.
It is quite bulky and I found it a little boring for the first few pages but then the magic just happened. I loved this book.

Okay so Graca is the daughter of the sugar plantation mill and Dores is the daughter of one of the workers there. Both loved playing each other and went to the same school. They ran away to chase their dreams and ended up in clubs. Graca gradually becomes Sofia and Dores was left out at times when the rivalry starts between them. Eventually Graca dies and Dores is the one to narrate this story while being on the verge of dying.

It moves from sugar plantation towards Hollywood just like that and I don't know what to say about the journey.
Also the friendship between Dores and Graca wasn't that simple. The were kind of soulmates at one time but rivals at other times so it was really a good read after all.
The flow and the structure is really beautiful.

Also I love it because of the strong characters of Dores and Graca. They had passion for music no doubt but they wanted to fulfil their desire and they moved out of comfort zones and did it.
Absolutely loved it.

entire review at https://flyleaflifestyle.blogspot.com...
Profile Image for Jerrie.
989 reviews130 followers
January 26, 2019
The story has wonderful atmosphere and is rich with details. The characters are well-drawn and varied. The story arc, though, didn’t keep me as engaged as I would have liked. We know early on how the story will end and that may have detracted from some of the tension that normally keeps a story flowing. It’s still recommended, though, due to the strong writing and characters. 3.5 ⭐️
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,744 reviews167 followers
January 29, 2019
"There is a gap between our reality and our desires. If we are lucky, we live safely on one side and spy the other. Sometimes, we are able to bridge the gap, to cross the void, but only for a short while."

I wanted to love this one. I really did. I hate it....but I was just...bored. Story of two girls who are growing up very different - little miss and hired help. But through the two girls growing up, surrounded by (at first) fields and crops and only each other to play with - the lower status girl is raised up and gets to see some of the other side and get educated. Fast forward years, and they are going to school together and working together and running away together. They are discovering boys and girls and singing and working and....life. It was fascinating but long, drawn out and wordy. It gets very in depth into the semantics of music, singing and the different sounds at the times. I understand it's a story about a singer but it's not for a long time.....all the details just seemed to bog down the story.

But I've also been short on reading time and bogged down by life so I think this one may have also suffered from bad timing.
Profile Image for Cassidy (Cassidys.Bookshelf).
577 reviews61 followers
March 27, 2019
After seeing The Air You Breathe on so many favorites of 2018 lists I knew I needed to make it a priority in 2019. Wow. Just wow. I was immediately transported to 1930's Brazil to a sugar plantation where two young girls meet. One is Graca, the 'Little Miss' and Dores, the kitchen girl who has known nothing else. A friendship forms over their passion for music and for something bigger in life. Graca has the voice and determination to make something of herself and Dores has the words and the ability to help keep Graca in line. I was captivated by their journey in the world of samba and entertainment and flew through this over 400 page book in no time flat. If you loved the Hollywood vibe of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I think it is safe to say you will love The Air You Breathe. 5/5🌟
September 4, 2019
Όσο μεγαλώνει κανείς συνειδητοποιεί πως ορισμένα πράγματα που έχει ζήσει, κάποιες καταστάσεις και συναισθήματα, έχουν αφήσει μέσα του πολύ βαθύτερα σημάδια απ' όσο πίστευε και πολύ περισσότερο, απ' όσο επιθυμούσε να συμβεί κάτι τέτοιο. Αγκιστρώνονται β��θιά μέσα στην ψυχή μας, αποκτούν μια μόνιμη θέση σε αυτήν και καθορίζουν σημαντικά το ποιοι θα γίνουμε μελλοντικά. Σε όσο πιο νεαρή ηλικία βρισκόμαστε, τόσο πιο εύκολα αφηνόμαστε στα συναισθήματά μας, τόσο περισσότερο αφήνουμε τα πάθη μας να μας κυριεύσουν, και αυτό γιατί δεν σκεφτόμαστε και τόσο πολύ το αύριο, ούτε τις πιθανές συνέπειες όλων αυτών όταν θα καταρρεύσουν αφήνοντας πίσω τους συντρίμμια.

Όλα αυτά σκεφτόμουν καθώς διάβαζα το "Ο αέρας που αναπνέεις", την ιστορία δύο κοριτσιών τόσο διαφορετικών μεταξύ τους, μα και τόσο όμοιων συνάμα. Την ιστορία της Ντόρις και της Γκράσα, του ορφανού κοριτσιού που δουλεύει στην κουζίνα του Μεγάλου Σπιτιού μιας φυτείας ζαχαροκάλαμων της Βραζιλίας της δεκαετίας του '30 και της κόρης του πάμπλουτου ιδιοκτήτη όλων αυτών. Δυο κόσμοι ολότελα αντίθετοι που, όμως, τους δένει η αγάπη των δύο κοριτσιών για τη μουσική η οποία, τελικά, είναι αυτή που θα της φέρει κοντά και που θα αλλάξει τη ζωή τους για πάντα. Γιατί μπορεί η ζωή τους και το μέλλον τους να φαντάζει προδιαγεγραμμένο, όμως μία από αυτές μπορεί να κάνει τη διαφορά, να ξεφύγει απ' όλα αυτά που άλλοι επέλεξαν για εκείνες, και να ζήσει την απόλυτη δόξα.

Η Peebles έχει δημιουργήσει δύο απ' τους πιο περίπλοκους και πολυδιάστατους χαρακτήρες που έχει συναντήσει τα τελευταία χρόνια. Δύο πλάσματα που το καθένα είναι προικισμένο με τον δικό του τρόπο και που παρά τις διαφορές τους, εκείνες καταφέρνουν να πιαστούν από τις ομοιότητές τους και να "παντρέψουν" τις ανάγκες και τα θέλω τους, οδηγώντας τη σχέση τους σε πολυεπίπεδα μονοπάτια με δεκάδες σκαμπανεβάσματα και αντιπαραθέσεις που, όμως, την καθιστούν τόσο μοναδική και ιδιαίτερη και, ίσως, ως το σημαντικότερο σημείο αναφοράς σε ολόκληρη τη ζωή τους. Μια σχέση που οδηγεί σε αρκετές στιγμές πόνου, αλλά που την ίδια στιγμή κρύβει μέσα της ανείπωτη ομορφιά, δύναμη και πίστη.

Η αφήγηση της ιστορίας μπορεί να έχει τη φωνή της Ντόρις, όμως η Γκράσα δεν αποτελεί επ' ουδενί δευτεραγωνίστρια αυτής. Αντίθετα, φροντίζει να αναδείξει κάθε πρόσωπο αυτής, που δεν είναι και λίγα, όπως συμβαίνει, άλλωστε, και με τους πραγματικά μεγάλους καλλιτέχνες. Παράλληλα, ο συγγραφέας, φροντίζει να μας μεταφέρει με λεπτομερή ακρίβεια όλα τα στοιχεία εκείνα που χαρακτήρισαν την εποχή στην οποία και τοποθετείται η ιστορία του -ίσως και με περισσότερα απ' όσα θα θέλαμε ή θα ήταν πραγματικά αναγκαία σε ορισμένες στιγμές. Παρ' όλα ταύτα, δεν χάνεται η ροή ή η ένταση της αφήγησης, που μας παρασύρει σε έναν κόσμο γεμάτο μουσική, μελωδία και πάνω απ' όλα, συναισθήματα.

"Ο αέρας που αναπνέεις" είναι ένα μυθιστόρημα που χαρακτηρίζεται από τα ίδια ακριβώς στοιχεία με τη σάμπα, που τόσο σημαντικό ρόλο παίζει στην εξέλιξη αυτού, κυριολεκτικά και μεταφορικά. Ένα μυθιστόρημα που μας κάνει να συνειδητοποιούμε πως υπάρχουν ορισμένα πράγματα που παίρνουμε για δεδομένα ενώ δεν θα έπρεπε. Ένα μυθιστόρημα με ιστορικές προεκτάσεις, η μουσική του οποίου καταφέρνει να "μιλήσει" στην καρδιά, στην ψυχή και στο μυαλό μας, που αφηγείται μια ιστορία για τον ρατσισμό, τις κοινωνικές διαφορές, την τύχη, την φήμη, την δόξα, την άνοδο και την κάθοδο, την απόλυτη εξύψωση και την συντριπτική κάθοδο, τη δύναμη των φιλικών δεσμών, μα πάνω απ' όλα για την αναγέννηση του ανθρώπου μέσα από τις ίδιες του τις στάχτες.
Profile Image for Lost In My Books.
258 reviews127 followers
October 7, 2022
Fantastyczna książka! Zdecydowanie częściej chciałabym na takie trafiać.

⭐️ Fenomenalna fabuła!
⭐️ Dopracowani i psychologicznie rozbudowani bohaterowie.
⭐️ Lata 30 XX w. Plantacja trzciny cukrowej w Brazylii, Los Angeles w Złotej Erze Hollywood i Rio de Janeiro. ❤️
⭐️ Historia życia dwóch kobiet, z różnych środowisk, które stały się przyjaciółkami.
⭐️ Dylematy psychiczne, burzliwa miłość i przyjaźń.
⭐️ Muzyka, zespół i kariera.
⭐️ Trudne wybory.
⭐️ Silne kobiety i narkotyki.

Ta historia jest doskonale dopracowana od początku do końca! 😊 Autorka zaserwowała mi ucztę literacką.
Nigdy nie słyszałam o tej książce, a szkoda, ponieważ jest warta uwagi. 👌

Jeśli podobała Wam się powieść ,,Daisy Jones & The Six" to tutaj macie podobny klimat, ale znacznie lepszą historię i bardziej rozbudowaną. 🥰
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