Cynthia's Reviews > The Seamstress

The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles
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's review
Nov 13, 2008

it was amazing
Recommended to Cynthia by: Book Club
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in November, 2008

This book was fabulous, it had everything- dynamic characters, interesting setting, wonderful descriptions, terrific plot, compelling themes, and symbolism throughout.

Set in late 1920's to mid 1930's in Brazil during the Green Party revolution, two sisters', both talented seamstresses from a small mountain village, lives change dramatically. Emilia has big dreams to leave her country life for the city, to have a kitchen with tiled floors, a romantic husband, and to wear fashionable clothes. Luiza, whose arm is bent and crippled by an accident, is more realistic. She knows because of her arm, she will never be sought for marriage. She simply wants to be known as something other than the cruel town nickname, Victrola (those phonograph machines with a bent horn). Ordinarily these woman would have stayed where they are, in the simple county town with no prospects but fate stepped in.

The Hawk, the Cangaceiros leader, saw Luiza and something compelled him to want her in his group. Luiza went willingly. She wanted to leave Victrola behind. The cangaceiros roamed the Brazil scrublands and were protectors and providers to some but could also exact punishment on those who betrayed them or dishonored them. Over time, Luiza became, not only The Hawk's wife, but she became known as "the Seamstress", she was respected by the cangaceiros gang, revered by some people but also feared, and she became the best sharp shooter of the group.

Emilia met Degas, a doctor's son visiting her town's colonel's son, Felipe. Both need each other for their own reasons and they marry. Degas takes Emilia to Recife to his family's home. Degas' mom Dona Dulce treats her like crap, the maids treat her like crap, and Society makes fun of her country background. She has the tiled floor, clothes, and a husband but her marriage is in name and appearance only. She has no respect. She does, however, make a great friend, Lindavla and they open an exclusive dress shop filled with Emilia's fasions.

Both sisters are worlds apart but through the newspaper Emilia reads about "The Seamstress" and Luiza reads and sees pictures of Emilia. Both still share a bond and Emilia tries to help Luiza with hidden messages.

Both sisters are trapped like caged birds. Luiza was first trapped as Victrola and she saw the cangerceiro group as a means to escape this cage. Only she became trapped as the Seamstress. Violence bread more violence and she lost control. Emilia was trapped first in the country but then by High Society's and her family's expectations. She wanted to help Luiza, but how can she help her without falling herself?
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