Brazil opens within the panoramic expanse of the xanthic, xeric, Copacobana, the scene of the first meeting between Tristao Raposo and the Opheliaesque Isabel Leme. In an historically unstable epoch of military leadership neither colour, class nor fierce paternal intervention prove high enough social hurdles for the jejune duo, whose journey thus begins and takes them "through nature to eternity". The novel is consummately crafted and cadenced by Updike's authoritative voice and is home an intricate almost Shakespearean symmetry, a labryinth of internal reflection which culminates in the poignant conclusion drawn on the same Rio beach. This, coupled with the themes of the novel - fraternity, deception, and greed -and some expertly sculpted chapter endings provoke comparison to Shakespeare's Hamlet. A prose less polished and less scientifically precise would belie this claim, but not Updike's. His measured, pragmatic narrative - punctuated with Portuguese for extra spice - is both vivid and solid, yet the flight of the youthful lovers verges on the ethereal as the reader becomes an awe-struck voyeur of the eclectic melange of cultures of which Brazil is comprised; like a time pressed owner of an annoyingly explorative puppy Updike leads and hustles us masterfully, giving us a hastily-drawn yet incisive and colourful sketch of each shade of Brazilian culture; of the throbbing metropolis that is Rio De Janeiro, of the industrial Sao Paulo and eventually the merciless, morpheus jungle. Incredibly the idea for the novel - a semblable to Joseph Bedier's Romance of Tristan and Iseult - was conceived following a trip by Updike to Brazil only one week in duration; the fecundity, depth, and accuracy of the imagery is thus testament as much to Updike's insatiable reading and his research as to his - as Martin Amis puts it - "fresh nubile and unwitherable" style. The book's success lies in its perfectly paced narrative and in its delicate yet synergistic fusion of Updikean realism and latin wizardry. There are traces both of the Mid-West world-weariness so prevalent in his oeuvre such when Tristao lands a job in the back-breakingly harsh fusca factory, and of a mystic elan, encountered in the dark environs of the Amazon. This Nabokovian attempt at pastiche may however be a "good-humoured self-parody on our weaknesses fantasies and illusions". Anyone who has so much as entered a bookshop and glimpsed passingly at the U shelf, will not guffaw incredulously ( I refrain from using the condescending and exhausted aphorism "as we have now come to expect") when I say the prose positively drips with sex and that it is pupil-dilateingly daring, and punctuated with the odd eclectic and amusing euphemism, as the pair remain loyal in soul if not in their Marry Meesquely flexible relationship. The theme of monetary corruption - so often invoked by the Amis-Bellow-Updike vein of Anglo-American literature - is present within the fabric of Updike's richly spun-out prose. Money - both as a social gulf between the lovers and in its depiction as an evil, virulent contagion - is grimly noteworthy, the juxtaposition between industrial and untamed Brazil stark and foreboding. The comparison between the lovers in poverty and affluence is an interesting one ; the characters -whilst never as atachant as the Middle America Harry Angstroms - are at their most fervent, their most everfessant in times of austerity, indeed Updike calls their brief flirtation with a bourgeois lifestyle as "banality - the highly masked tedium". And whilst Barabra Kingsolver argues that their "love finds a way out of every prison [including] materialism" perhaps the differences between Tristao and Isabel's upbringing is the sole hurdle upon which they eventually stumble.