Monthly Favourites – March 2020

I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic on this blog, but I’ll have to do so this time, seeing that this month was awfully strange because of it. March seems to have lasted for ages. However, I don’t have many favourites to share with you. I haven’t read much in my spare time, sadly. I’ve spent too much time watching unremarkable films that just happened to be on TV instead.

From the few books that I’ve read, my favourite was O Bebedor de Horizontes by the Mozambican author Mia Couto. It is the last instalment in the trilogy Sands of the Emperor and focuses on what happened to the characters in the aftermath of the Portuguese offensive against Ngungunyane, the emperor of the State of Gaza. Although Imani is still the main character, it’s given more relevance to some historical figures. As in the first book, Woman of the Ashes, it delves into racism and colonialism.

Seeing that all gigs in Portugal have been cancelled, a group of artists decided to give short, one-person concerts live on Instagram. I watched a couple of them and particularly liked the one by David Fonseca. I’ve seen him live a few times, but it still warmed my heart when he sang ‘Borrow’. He then uploaded the performance on YouTube. Continue reading

‘O Bebedor de Horizontes’ by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

O Bebedor de Horizontes is the last instalment of the trilogy As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by the Mozambican author Mia Couto. One of the main differences between this book and the previous two, Mulheres de Cinza (Woman of the Ashes in the English translation) and A Espada e a Azagaia, is that it gives more prominence to some historical figures, although Imani continues to be the main character. The novel is at its best, in fact, when it focuses on her more personal experiences.

Set in 1895 and 1896, mainly in Mozambique, it explores the aftermath of the Portuguese offensive against Ngungunyane, the emperor of the State of Gaza. The narration in the first person by Imani, a young woman from the Vachopi tribe, is complemented by a variety of letters sent to her not only by Germano, but also by other characters, such as Bianca. We learn that within the Portuguese military there’s a conflict between Mouzinho de Albuquerque and Álvaro Andrea. Germano believes Andrea to be a much better person overall. But it’s Imani who has to deal with both of them.

The style of the prose changes slightly depending on what is being conveyed. When Imani is reporting on what other characters did, the writing style is more straightforward, less embellished. On the other hand, when she is being more introspective or recalling her own experiences, words come together more graciously and metaphors abound. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2020

My first book haul of 2020 consists mainly of books that I either have been wanting to read for a couple of years or that are the last instalments of certain series. There is no common theme or genre between the five of them. As I plan to read them all in the following months, you won’t have to wait long to know my opinions about them.

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

The last book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series focuses on Isabella’s most famous adventure, which is partially set in the tallest peak in the world. It will surely share some similarities with the other books in the series. I’m expecting it to continue to delve into social and scientific problems, while painting an anthropological picture of the world it’s set in.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character in this short book refuses to be subdued by married life. When it was first published in 1899, The Awakening was considered to be sordid and immoral. I’m not expecting to find it so in the 21st century. But I’m eager to discover what shocked people so much back then. Continue reading

‘A Espada e a Azagaia’ by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Being the second book in the trilogy As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor), A Espada e a Azagaia continues to delve into similar topics to those put forward in Mulheres de Cinza (Woman of the Ashes in the English translation). It explores not only how characters dealt with one another within the constraints of colonialism, but also how they faced their own personal tribulations, desires and doubts. Overall, it paints a believable social and psychological portray of various inhabitants of Mozambique.

At the end of the first book (about which there will be spoilers ahead), Imani, a young African woman from the VaChopi tribe, fired a weapon at the Portuguese Sergeant Germano de Melo, hurting his hands, in order to save her brother Mwanatu. So, this novel, which is set in 1895, starts with Imani taking him to the only hospital in the Gaza region. With them were her father, her brother and the Italian Bianca Vanzini.

On their way to the hospital, they stopped at a church. The priest there, Rudolfo, had seen so much violence that he neither performed masses anymore nor believed that praying was useful. An African woman who lived there insisted on doing a ritual that according to her would turn Germano into a fish, so he could return to the sea. Throughout the book there are, in fact, various depictions of African rituals and superstition. Continue reading

Book Series – What I’m Reading

Reading book series is a great way to become fully immersed in a fictional world. I’m currently sinking my teeth into five book series and, until I finish at least one of them, I don’t plan to start a new one. Whenever I complete a book series, the plan is to replace it with another one of those on my wish list. I’m only mentioning on this post the series that I’m not caught up on (reason why the list below doesn’t feature A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin) and that I want to finish.

 

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

This is the first trilogy in a larger fantasy series set in the Realm of the Elderlings. So far, I’ve only read the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, which is set in the Six Duchies, a land ruled by the Farseers. Fitz, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is trained as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the Farseer family – the Skill. Not only is this book full of court intrigue, it also delves into various human emotions.

After finishing this trilogy, I’ll certainly read the other series set in the same world. Although I considered the possibility of reading all the series featuring Fitz first and only afterwards picking up the remaining ones, I’m now more inclined to read them in order of publication. Continue reading

Book Haul – April 2019

I hadn’t planned to buy any books this month, but the desire to take part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week in May had me looking for new ones to add to my already overflowing small shelves. Could have I just bought one book? Yes! Did I? Of course not! This is a somewhat diverse haul, featuring a couple of different genres – classics, fantasy and literary fiction.

 

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier is one of the authors that I want to read at least one book by every year. I read Jamaica Inn in January and wasn’t planning to read any other of her books in the following months. But then I discovered that Ali is dedicating a week (13 to 19 May) to du Maurier and decided to join in. For that purpose, I chose The House on the Strand. The main character, Dick Young, drinks a potion provided to him by a chemical researcher that allows him to time travel. He ends up in fourteenth-century Cornwall where he witnesses murder and adultery.

 

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the latest years, I’ve been reading the fantasy book series The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth instalment and reveals how Lady Trent gained her position in the Scirling Royal Army. All the other books were a mix of adventure with feminism and anthropological elements. I expect the same from this one. Continue reading

‘Mulheres de Cinza’ (‘Woman of the Ashes’) by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Mulheres de Cinza, or Woman of the Ashes in the English translation, takes place in the late 19th century, during the last days of the state of Gaza, the second largest empire led by an African. However, Mia Couto gives more importance to the characters’ inner struggles than to the historical events, which develop in the background. Told from the perspectives of Imani and Sergeant Germano de Melo, this novel, the first in a trilogy, delves into imperialism, racism and cultural erasure.

Fifteen-year-old Imani is a member of the VaChopi tribe, who inhabits Nkokolani, near the coast of Mozambique. Their land was at the centre of a dispute between the VaNguni and the Portuguese, of whom they were allies. The leader of the VaNguni, Ngungunyane, was the ruler of the state of Gaza. This conflict divided Imani’s family. She had two brothers. One, Dubula, had always been fascinated by the VaNguni, having left home to live in the forest. The other, Mwanatu, was raised in a catholic mission, as was Imani, and his allegiance lied with the Portuguese. He was working at the Portuguese military barracks as an assistant of Sergeant Germano.

Throughout the book, Imani recalls events from hers and her family’s life. Her existence was an amalgam of two different worlds. She spoke Portuguese at home but at the same time wondered what her life would be like if she became Ngungunyane’s wife. Her father once told her a story about a bat that had desired to belong to more than one world. As he was wounded, the bat fell at a crossroads. Neither the birds nor the rats helped him, because he was not of them. Continue reading

Books Waiting Too Long to Be Read

I always try to keep my TBR pile under control. Thus, I generally read the majority of the books that I buy in the subsequent months. Occasionally, however, some of them are left waiting as I decide to pick up newer additions to my shelves. I’ve recently realised that there are five books on my shelves waiting to be read since 2017. I’m still interested in reading almost all of them, but my enthusiasm has waned since then.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

I bought this book back in January 2017, I believe, but for reasons unknown never got around to reading it. This is a crime novel written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. Private detective Cormoran Strike investigates the apparent suicide of a troubled model. This will be the year that I’ll finally read it!

 

Vozes do Vento by Maria Isabel Barreno

This book by the Portuguese writer Maria Isabel Barreno is the one that I’m least eager to pick up. I read about four pages soon after buying it, but as I couldn’t get into it I decided to put it down and give it another try in the future. It is a family colonial saga set in Cape Verde. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese that Should Be Translated into English

When I decided to create this blog about books, I thought it a good idea to write it in English, although it is not my first language. I don’t regret that choice in the slightest, since it has allowed me to continue practising the language and to interact with fellow readers from all over the world. However, it has also a downside. Sometimes I mention books originally written in Portuguese that are not available in English and, thus, that the majority of you can’t read.

Today’s post will add to this conundrum, seeing that it’s exclusively about books that, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t yet been translated into English but should have. Some of these are available in other languages besides Portuguese, such as Spanish and French, though.

 

Livro by José Luís Peixoto

Set in part in the ‘60s, Livro delves into the Portuguese emigration to France through the story of a specific family. José Luís Peixoto uses more than words to tell this story, which emphasises how difficult it can be to achieve a better life. A circle drawn around particular words helps to convey an important plot point. ‘Livro’ means ‘book’ in Portuguese, and it is not only the title of this novel but also the name of a crucial character. Continue reading

‘A Confissão da Leoa’ (‘Confession of the Lioness’) by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Mia Couto is an author who, after reading only one book by, I became immensely interested in. A Confissão da Leoa, Confession of the Lioness in the English translation, was my second foray into his work and I was not disappointed, but neither was I astonished. Disguised in a tale about a lion hunt told from two different perspectives, this is essentially a book about the many tribulations faced by the women who live in a Mozambican village and its consequences.

The first perspective the reader is presented with is that of Mariamar. She lives in Kulumani with her parents. Her sister Silência has recently died in result of a lion attack, and her mother, Hanifa Assulua, is struggling to deal with that fact. The traditions revolving around a person’s death are repeatedly displayed and are a first taste of the various magical realism elements that can be found throughout the book. Superstition still plays an important part in people’s lives, and many decisions are made with them in mind.

News soon arrive that a couple of people from the capital are going to the village to solve the problems posed by the lions and among them is a hunter. Hanifa becomes really distressed with the prospect of his arrival, because she believes that he will take Mariamar to the city. For that reason, she intends to leave the house and kill him. In order to stop her, her husband, Genito Mpepe, throws her against a cabinet. Mariamar intervenes to defend her mother and says she was the one who has called the lions so the hunter would go to the village. Continue reading