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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 March 2011
The closest Brighton usually gets to Brazil is in the pages of a dictionary, but in "Invisibles" the two are drawn together in the life of Joel Burns, a thirty-five year old dentist who lives in Brighton as does his mother, Jackie, and partner Debbie from whom he is separated. When Joel sees a news clip of a bus hijack in Rio de Janeiro, where Joel and Jackie lived until Joel was ten, he is convinced that one of the bystanders is his Brazilian father. What makes this more unusual is that Jackie has always told Joel that his father is dead, although Joel has never quite bought into this story which is at least part of the cause of his problems with Debbie. The solution? Head off to Rio and see if he can track down this person.

Joel's quest is helped by the fact that his childhood friend Liam has conveniently recently landed a job in Rio giving him a place to stay and at least a starting point. Once there, he also encounters a struggling musician, Nelson, who is fighting hard, and failing, to keep his head above water. If this is a convenience or a hindrance to Joel's quest is the subject of much of the book as Joel seeks to find the truth about what happened to his father.

At this point, I would usually say something like `first-time author, Ed Siegle', but I'm not going to as that is misleading. Not because it's not factually correct, but because the book is so well plotted and put together that is has almost no signs of this being a first time effort and looks more like the work of a highly experienced writer. If I had to liken Siegle to a writer that you may have read, then there are hints of Nick Hornby in terms of style, particularly in those books where Hornby is at his least overtly lad-literature end. There's a similar balance of humour and style, and Siegle shares Hornby's passions for music and football - well, this is Brazil.

Siegle gives a satisfying arc to almost all of his characters, be that Joel, Jackie, Debbie, Nelson and to a lesser extent, Liam too. Each learn and change throughout the story and their relationships change as the story unfolds. To achieve this without slowing the development of the central plot line is impressive.

He also gives a nice feel of both Brighton and Rio. Rio is one of those cities that whenever it crops up in a novel acts as one of the characters, but it's a balanced view here, neither concentrating on the very rich nor the very poor, but rather more interestingly looking at those on the margins of the two worlds. Nelson does not live in a "Favela" but is fighting to keep himself out of the violence of poverty. Nelson is an endearing chancer with a good heart. Siegle balances what is clearly a great love and affection for Rio with reality and writes well on Joel's experience of going back to the places he distantly remembers from his youth. Siegle also shows a superb ear for the language and there are echos of Portuguese inflections to the speech patterns of his Brazilian characters without distracting from the natural flow.

There are heavy doses of humour as well as touching moments of the quest to find the long-buried truth about Joel's father. The music of Rio also informs a lot of the book - it's one of those books that really ought to come with a soundtrack. For the ultimate reading of this book, turn up the central heating, pour yourself a "caipirinha" and put on some background samba music.

True, you have to swallow the unlikelihood of Brighton-based Joel seeing a Brazilian hijack on British news in the first place, but thereafter, it's all pretty believable. Fans of books that tie up all the loose ends will also be more than satisfied here, although as a matter of personal taste, I would have preferred a slightly more messy, ambiguous end to things, but that probably says more about me than about the book! It's not without some minor faults, but I loved it.
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Joel is a young dentist, now living in Brighton. He lost his father in traumatic circumstances in his younger years, when the family lived in Rio. And this is the story of his personal quest to discover whether his father is actually still alive or not. It is a poignant account of longing, loss and hope. It forms a strong central narrative, as Joel abandons his life in England after he believes he sees his Father as a bystander on a TV news clip about a hijacked bus (based on a real event on 12th June 2000). He goes to Rio and stays with his friend Liam, who has an apartment set back from the wonderful beaches of the city.

This novel captures the heartbeat and feel of Brazil – the author uses Portuguese words, and although the reader may not know the meaning, the Brazilian experience is superbly brought to life through the phrases and imagery – as well as the music, the bars, the scenery, the food and the reverberating pulse are all evocatively described. This truly is a way to delve into the country for the price of a book.

The elements that perhaps didn’t work so well for me were the stories of mum Jackie (and ‘ex’ girlfriend Debbie) left at home in Brighton, and of Nelson & Co, the people in Brazil who help Joel to trace the history of his father’s life. Each feels like a bit of an ephemeral story that hovers around the edges – somehow they should feel more integral than they do – and in some way they detract from the powerful, central narrative of this young man searching for the truth behind his father’s disappearance. There could have been so much more flesh on these particular bones.

As for the cover, what a joy. One glance and it hooks you in with the design and colour and you just know where this book going to be set and the kind of vivid storyline that awaits you. Vibrancy and colour are the keywords! Really eye-catching, a credit to the designer.

This book is a good read if you are heading to Brazil, as it will capture the essence and beat of the country. And football even gets a bit of a look-in, so it is a perfect choice for those who hope to be engrossed in the World Cup in the Summer 2014! You heard it here first!
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on 20 June 2011
You don't expect much invisibility in a novel set in two colourful and vibrant coastal towns populated by characters moved to act from - and linked by - a desperate struggle for survival on the one hand and a desperate need to discover the truth on the other. But the novel goes far deeper than that, immersing the reader in the psyches of two characters so well that we inhabit both their worlds, and their pasts equally, hoping they can both somehow escape the contradictory and seemingly inevitable conclusions to their problems. And what we see beneath the facades of their lives is a lot of sadness, pain and grief, and not just of the main characters either - the peripheral but no less important people who suffer because of them and whose love and kindness eventually help win the day. Along the journey Joel takes into his past we get glimpses into a world invisible to us too, one where the the police torture and break people, and where the poor and dispossessed live or die at the whim of the rich and powerful. The storyline is a bit of a slow burner to begin with, but as we read on we start to understand why Joel has to return to his past, and from his arrival in Rio the tension and pace build as we follow his path of discovery, always a little step ahead of Joel. This is cleverly done - the narrative moves convincingly from one voice to the next as we are transported across times and places in an instant, a dislocation held together by the connections they each have to Joel.
Ed Siegle has written and accomplished novel which can't fail to engross - I read it in two days and couldn't put it down for the last 100 pages!
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on 19 July 2012
Ed Siegle hits the mark here in a number of ways...

The book opens in an emotionally charged manner; putting you in the shoes of both hostage and kidnapper before unravelling into a thoroughly modern thriller.

Skipping between Brazil and Brighton, the story engages the reader in questions of poverty, age, locality, crime, purpose and politics.

At its heart, this book asks us to question how we are attached to both our fathers and mothers, and what our choices relating to them mean to our development.

A great modern novel.
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on 1 June 2011
It was such a pleasure to read `Invisibles', by Ed Siegle. It is a beautifully written novel where the writer's belief in, and dedication to his storyline shines through. It is a story of personal identity, relationship and love, skilfully positioned between the bars and street life of Rio de Janeiro and everyday life in Brighton. I was drawn into the unfamiliar surroundings of Rio very early in the book through his vibrant use of descriptive language, credible dialogue and subtle humour. Ed Siegle succeeds in conjuring up the tastes, sounds, cultural and political differences, and language of Rio without overkill. He uses just the right amount of Brazilian Portuguese and allusions to music and football to set the scene, and his understanding of and attachment to both Rio and Brighton is evident. The reader is presented with plausible, real characters who develop naturally throughout the plot through the passion, feeling and dedication that is present in his writing. He has written a novel that comes from his heart with great conviction and belief in his plot. `Invisibles' has rekindled my love for the contemporary novel and I look forward to reading Ed Siegle's next book.
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on 23 August 2011
Have just finished the Invisibles and really enjoyed it. I really liked the way the characters developed through the book, in particular nelson and Jackie, lots of lovely damaged characters looking for a bit of happiness. The mood and atmosphere of brazil came across very strongly, the glamour, fun and also the grit and hardship. The book is detailed and clever and not a book you can just read quickly, but once I picked it up I wanted to finish it! Look forward to the next one. What an achievement.
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on 31 January 2012
Not used to reviewing on Amazon but I just wanted to make sure anyone on the fence in terms of reading this book just goes ahead and does it.
Bought on a bit of a whim I think it's going to be hard to beat as my 'book of the year 2012' and it's still January - just brilliant...I can't articulate as well as previous reviewers (possibly due to the rather large glasses of Sainsbury's Soave ...) however I feel compelled to say that Invisibles is clearly a 'great read' in terms of the characterisations and story but is able to evoke both the real feel of Brighton and Rio. The author is writing from the heart and has set the barrier pretty high for his next book.

In our family, 2 of of us (the enlightened ones) have Kindles, 3 don't (luddites)the first thing I did after reading it on Kindle was to buy in book format to ensure we all read it, which shows, I hope, that it really is a wonderful book. I've also just lashed out on / been inspired to purchase, a bunch of Brazilan music (Tropicalia and Joao Gilberto) which would accompany this smashing book so well.

Enjoy !
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on 6 September 2011
I downloaded this book to my Kindle on a lark. What a pleasant surprise! Siegle has drawn an excellent cast of characters here, made people so whole and complete I was dreading the first misstep which would make them stand out as too-'cute'-to-be-real. That's my usual experience with fiction which takes place on two sides of the globe . . .

Here's the thing: There is no such moment, and even better he draws the settings so realistically and so sympathetically that when I put down the book I felt like I had just been to Brazil. The plot is completely convincing, even overcoming the dangerous ground of a 35-year old man seeking his long-lost father. You don't get cute life lessons, you get real storytelling and you get the truth that sometimes there is no single answer.

I'm surprised this is a first novel, and even more I am looking forward to his second.
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on 21 July 2011
I have just finished reading Invisibles. I have read it in two days: I did not want to put it aside until I reached the end.

It is a first class story and beautifully written. The plot, taking us from Brighton to Rio de Janeiro, drives along at a great pace. But not too fast.

On the Sussex coast we are in Brighton, elegant but busy and modern. We are given fine descriptions of the sea and the atmosphere of the Channel - "Harder and harder the rain fell, breaking up the surface of the sea....Huddled close, they watched the rain. It made the skin of the sea look prickly, like the stems of a nettle...." The author's descriptions of sea and countryside reminded me of Thomas Hardy. And it is here in Brighton that Joel's mother pursues her amusing and somewhat shallow affairs.

But there is a deal of pathos in Joel's story; the picture of him as a little boy, enjoying his father's company and looking up to him, and the sudden moment in Brazil when the father is taken away. And so Joel's quest to find him sounds an insistent chord running through the story.

The world is used to seeing the homeless, including children, living on the streets. But in Rio the street boys inhabit another world. They are a separate underclass of people, under the thrall of barons. And we meet them here in the book. They live alongside the rich and the beautiful people, and they move into their houses when they go away.

Ed Siegle knows Brazil. He captures the great beauty of the place. Rio, with its hibiscus bushes and swirling black and white pavements. The dignity of the people. And their dance culture and their song. But he also shows us the depth of poverty there, and the cruelty and corruption. There is an irony that the statue of Christ stands over Rio in such a gesture of embracing, while below there is so much suffering and inhumanity.

And back in Brighton Joel's mother, despondent and a little aimless though she is, remembers her share of suffering when she was in Rio. She hopes for better things: "One day the world would be a better place.......the ones with power were the worst of all."

This novel is finely crafted. It is a first novel. One hopes for many more.
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on 2 October 2011
Invisibles is amazing. The (first-time!) author weaves an epic tale, taking us from Brighton to Brazil and back, and I was happily captivated from the start. My previous mental picture of Rio was gained from a Bond film, a video game set in a favela (yes MW2), and a mate who used to run a backpackers on Copacabana Beach. Now it's got depth and colour and passion and music, all watched over by the roguish character Nelson strumming his guitar in someone else's clifftop villa.

Other reviewers have eloquently summarised the great pacing and evocative style of Invisibles, and the author's perfect descriptive phrases and obvious love for the city of Rio and it's music. It's important to note that there's also helicopters and a shoot-out.

A joy to read and thoroughly recommended.
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