Friday, May 24, 2013

My Darling Dead Ones by Erika de Vasconcelos

It is refreshing sometimes to read stories that are explicitly about women. This novel has no men - well, barely any men - and the ones that are there play miniscule roles in the drama that unfolds. The story follows four generations of Portugese women as they move through life and tell each other their stories. It is, as you can imagine, beautifully written, with shades of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

There is a family tree at the start of the novel, which is helpful but not totally necessary, as the narrative is clear on who is related to whom, and how. It's hard to describe what exactly happens in the book, as it is mostly a non-linear exploration, complete with secrets and revelations, of the lives of women - and these four women in particular (that is, Helena and her sister Magdalena, Helena's daughter Leninha, and her daughter Fiona) along with Fiona's sister Laura, and daughters Bea and Zoe.

I think you'll know if you like this kind of thing by reading the back, honestly. It's about women and their lives, stories, love and loss, the lives of immigrants. Obviously I eat this stuff up - and I liked that it wasn't overly sentimental - but it's not for everyone.

In terms of Toronto, it doesn't really play much of a part. There are no landmarks mentioned and it doesn't try to capture the flavour of the city at all. It is more of an internal story, in that most of it takes part in the feelings of the women involved and not so much the world around them.

All told, it is a gorgeous story by a gifted writer, and it will appeal to exactly the readers it intends to.

Four CN Towers out of five.

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