‘Ema’ by Maria Teresa Horta

My rating: 4 stars

Both the structure and the writing style of a book have a significant impact on the reading experience. Ema by the Portuguese author Maria Teresa Horta is a collection of snippets about the lives of three characters all named Ema. This assortment of memories ends up being engaging, because the writing style has a haunting poignancy and the book is relatively short. The recollections flow into one another in a captivating rhythm. Although I would have liked to know more about the women that are at the heart of this novella, the structure chosen by the author wouldn’t have worked as well in a more detailed and far-reaching book.

Ema has killed her husband. But which of the Emas? The three women that are the main characters in this book are different from one another, their lives are not exactly the same, but at the same time they are almost indistinguishable. It’s difficult to know who is specifically being focused on at each given moment. The violence they endure, the value they are not given and the oppression they feel almost merge into one single form of unhappiness.

As the story progresses, it becomes clearer how the various Emas are connected and how the past influences the present. The suffering that transpires from the pages becomes even more affecting.

The writing style used by Maria Teresa Horta in Ema left me eager to read her poetry, which I’m hoping will be as moving.


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