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3.0 out of 5 stars who says chocolate is a safe pleasure?, 17 Jan 2012
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This review is from: The Violent Land (Paperback)
This is a fictional tale of the town of Ilheos in the southern Bahia region of Brazil around the time of the real `cocoa rush' about the 1920s. It was written by Amado in 1945 who witnessed the situation when he was young (about 6).

The basics of the story centres around two of the wealthy main ruling `Colonels' being Badaro and Horacio; they each own cocoa growing land neighbouring the Sequeiro Grande forest - this small section leads to a larger section of uncultivated forest, the owners of which would control the whole area. There are two basic ways to get it: murder - enter the killers Viriato, Domiao et al or legal (by fraudulently seizing it) - enter the lawyers Virgilio, Ruy et al. The most powerful and ruthless will win out (you can guess it all ends in tears). The book opens with a ferry trip on which side-characters arrive including Magalhaes - the conman/poker player and Margot the prostitute. The colonels have family of course including Barados' daughter Don Ana; Horacio's wife Ester. Suffice it to say this allows the book to have a parallel fight for love between Ester and Virgilio (you can guess it all ends in tears). There is of course some politics and religion.

This is an intriguing novel and shows how it was then: disease, murder, jungle, near-slaves, killers, aspiration, hate and money. The book is colourful, passionate and well depicted and has all the elements of a fantastic read - it is not in a magical realism style being a linear narrative. Yet somehow at the end I felt an opportunity had been missed; put simply the pace, inequity and apparent avoidance of realism wrt the love passions and the killings left the book short and lacklustre (my favourite author Emile Zola, even writing in 1870s, would have had a field day with his natural realism style - `Germinal' is mentioned on page 70). I enjoyed going on the net and finding the locations mentioned to see how the region had developed today. A different style of story from the 4 other Amado novels I've read: Dona Flor; Gabriela, War of the Saints and Jubiaba; so a recommended read but only 3 stars.

If you do like the idea of this story you would probably do better with: Souza's Mad Maria or The Emperor of the Amazon; Zero by Ignacio Brandao; The Slum by Aluísio Azevedo or of course Huasipungo (The Villagers) by Jorge Icaza.
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The Violent Land
The Violent Land by Jorge Amado (Paperback - Aug 1989)
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