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The Air You Breathe

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  6,763 ratings  ·  933 reviews
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, a
Hardcover, 449 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  6,763 ratings  ·  933 reviews

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Christina - Recipe & a Read
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-read
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 fal
Angela M
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 Hollywoo
Diane S ☔
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 musi
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
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 ‘a
Elyse  Walters
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 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 gorg
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
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
Katie B
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 o ...more
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
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, rival
✨Bean's Books✨
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 ver
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
[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.
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: latinx-mc
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 ...more
Book of the Month
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
♥ Sandi ❣
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 his
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 frequ ...more
Kristen Beverly
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kathryn in FL
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
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 af
Dana Portwood
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

It is hard to write a review for this book. It is rich and beautiful and evocative. The atmosphere is lush and lyrical. I smelled and tasted and heard Brazil. I wanted to adore this book. But for all that is very good about this book, it also felt like it needed a tighter storyline. I don't mind slow story building but there were times when I wanted to tell this book to, GET THERE ALREADY. The ruminations began to bog the plot down and felt tedious. There isn't so much need to spell out
Patrycja D.
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)
Jillian Doherty
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 Augu ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Shweta Panda
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 thi
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
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 ⭐️
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
"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 gi
Cassidy (Cassidys.Bookshelf)
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 abil ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
2.5 stars

This is a generic work of historical fiction that has me questioning my past literary judgment – because I loved the author’s first novel, The Seamstress, to pieces, and thought it was a fantastic literary adventure, featuring two divergent but equally compelling storylines. That was nine years ago, though, and I did not find any of the wonder I remember seeing there in this eminently forgettable book.

Apparently inspired by the career of 1940’s Hollywood musical star Carmen Miranda, th
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
3.5 samba beats.
I liked The Air You Breathe a lot, but I didn't love it as much as I was expecting to.

I have read ZERO novels about Brazilians, or anything set for even a minute in Brazil. It was wonderful to read about such a vibrant, tumultuous place for the first time outside of an International Relations uni reading pack. I loved the way de Pontes Peebles painted the country - with wide and unapologetic strokes. I could almost feel the heat on my face.

At it's heart, The Air You Breathe is a
Megan C.
My first 5-star read of 2019! I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. I will admit that I put off reading it for far too long because the size intimidated me a bit, (it's under 500 pages, but it looks huge in person) and I really wish I hadn't. This book has it all - brilliant writing, engaging story line, bright, dimensional characters....despite it's size, I flew through it in two days.

Many of you who know me well know what a research geek I am. I was so enraptured by this story, even re
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