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The Seamstress Paperback – 2 Feb 2009
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'Lavishly detailed the leisurely pace and attention to detail immerse the reader in both gilded halls and unsavory bandit camps' Publishers Weekly 'This engrossing historical saga of Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s the novel's true beauty is the exquisitely realized relationship between Emilia and Luzia, two strong women who, despite the separate paths their lives take, remain connected and committed to each other' Library Journal 'Wonderfully descriptive, both of emotions and the wild interior of northern Brazil. But its success lies in the portrayal of sisterhood - the love, jealousy and earnest loyalty of sororal love' Psychologies 'Fans of Isabel Allende will find much to recommend in this saga, with its fully realized characters, gripping moral quandaries, tense drama, and lyrical descriptive prose' ELLE
Emilia and Luzia dos Santos, orphaned when they are children, grow up under the protection of their aunt in the hillside village of Taquaritinga, Brazil. Raised as seamstresses, the sisters learn how to cut, how to mend and how to conceal. Emilia treasures pretty, girlish things and longs to escape from the confines of the little town. Captivated by the romances she reads in magazines, she dreams of finding love in the bustle and glamour of the city. Luzia, scarred by a childhood accident that has left her with a deformed arm, knows that for her, real life can not be romantically embroidered, and so she finds solace in her sewing and in the secret prayers to the saints she believes once saved her life. But when Luzia is abducted by a gang of rebel bandits, the sisters' lives diverge in ways they never imagined.Whilst Luzia learns to survive in the unforgiving Brazilian outland, discovering love in the most unexpected of places, Emilia meets the son of a wealthy doctor who seems to offer her everything she has always desired. But for the innocent dreamer, the excitement of her escape to the city is soon overshadowed by disillusion and loneliness.As she learns how to navigate the treacherous waters of Brazilian high society, the bandits' campaign against the land-owning 'Colonels' intensifies, and when a price is placed upon Luzia's head Emilia realises she must risk everything in order to save her sister. See all Product description
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This is a story of two sisters who are separated by their different fates after their grandmothers death. One followes her dream to live in the city as a fine lady, the other joins a band of outlaws. The narration switches between the two girls as their lives take very different paths.
My first struggle was that I did not warm to either of the main characters. The narration is quite distant, giving the impression that you are observing from afar. Their thoughts and feelings are described in detail, but de Pontes Peebles fails to create a feeling of intimacy or closeness. It was too factual, too stiff and formal. It did not help that I found the younger sister unlikeable - Boring and shallow and irritating, a bit helpless and silly.
I found the chapters narrated by the outlaw sister Luzia, much more interesting than the ones narrated by Emilia. Even though I still struggled with the clumsy and remote narration, it was her story that kept me from closing the book before I had finished. By contrast, Emilia's chapters detailing her struggle to fit in with the High Society of the city were even more dull and irritating, like an interruption in the real story. I think I can see what the author has tried to achieve, but for me, this book was a real struggle to finish.
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The novel, by Frances De Pontes Peebles, is epic--641 pages--but is worth every glorious minute. Occasionally, after spending a significant amount of time with a book I am truly sad when it finally comes to an end (ie. The Count of Monte Cristo). I feel this way about The Seamstress. I will miss it.
With passionate and lush writing, Peebles tells the story of two sisters living in Brazil during the political upheaval of the 1930's. While both women manage to escape the poverty of their orphaned childhoods in the mountains of Brazil, they lead drastically different adult lives. In spite of this, they are tied together by the bonds of sisterhood and their training as expert seamstresses.
Emelia and especially Luzia are unique heroines. Peebles created fascinating and complex women characters who are at once strong and fragile, righteous and wicked and nearly always sympathetic. The women are so real and deal with the entire spectrum of human emotion, it is at times hard to believe they are fictional characters.
While the images of violence are often brutal and barbaric, Peebles writes without vulgarity or unnecessary sexual content.
I often give a book five stars upon reading it and then change my mind the more I think about the book and deconstruct it's themes, characters and plot (ie. Ahab's Wife). At this moment, only minutes after reading the final pages, I unabashedly award five stars to The Seamstress.
This is a tale of two sisters, two seamstresses. Emilia and Luzia were both raised in their tiny and poor interior town to be seamstress's by their aunt. But Luzia is different. A childhood accident caused one of her arms to freeze at a right angel. It doesn't make any less of a seamstress but the deformity means she'll never marry and earns her the nickname Victrola. While Luzia fights back by being angry and silent, Emilia-the more beautiful sister-longs to escape to the big city, to be rich and never have to work.
Both of their lives are forever changed when the bandits of the backlands, the group led by the infamous Hawk. When the Hawk takes Luzia with him and makes her a part of his band and his legend, Emilia is left with only one desire-escape. And she manages her goal with a quick marriage to a man who uses her for his own purpose and brings her into the very family which may bring an end to her sister's life.
Emilia becomes a seamstress of the elite with her clothing designs and Luzia becomes the seamstress-a title given to her by the people of the interior for the embroidery she puts on the bandits clothing and the precision she learns with her gun. These two seamstresses are both experts with their craft but they soon learn that the parts of their very different lives have been sewn together and it may be that the life of one relies entirely on the actions of the other....
This is an excellently written novel. Not only is it a tale of the history of Brazil (why don't they teach this in school?) but of the complex relationships people form in families and in life and the interdependency of those relationships. This is one of those novels you'll have a hard time putting down. While parts of this novel are difficult to read because of the intensity of the writing and the story, it is a tale that will leave you both emotionally drained and fulfilled. In that way it's not a "fun" novel to read but it is an experience and an education.
One annoying thing about the book was the proliferation of untranslated Poruguese words, ones that even Google translate couldn't decipher. There wasn't even a glossary, and if I'm not mistaken the book was originally written in English, so I don't understand why I didn't get more language help.
Other than that, from the word images that I was able to derive from the book , the story place and time were very vivid and real.
Towards the end, I had to put the book down because I was frightened at how the plot was unfolding and it was clear that for some characters, things would not go well. And they didn't, but for others they did, so it was a very life like book, well drawn stories. this novel kept me reading and thinking.
At points I was not sure whether I would finish the book, but now having finished it, I think it is a book that will stay with me.
I give it a strong recommendation for those who have staying power and are like to peer into other different times and lives.