Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Flesh And Bone And Water by Luiza Sauma

Flesh And Bone And Water by Luiza Sauma

First published in the UK by Viking in February 2017.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Swimming and WorldReads: Brazil

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Brazilian-born doctor André Cabral is living in London when one day he receives a letter from his home country, which he left nearly thirty years ago. A letter he keeps in his pocket for weeks, but tells no one about. The letter prompts André to remember the days of his youth - torrid afternoons on Ipanema beach with his listless teenage friends, parties in elegant Rio apartments, his after-school job at his father's plastic surgery practice - and, above all, his secret infatuation with the daughter of his family's maid, the intoxicating Luana. Unable to resist the pull of the letter, André embarks on a journey back to Brazil to rediscover his past.'

Elements of Flesh And Bone And Water reminded me of Wasp Days by Erhard  von Buren in that both books explore the memories of older men looking back to their youths and neither of the men is presented as a particularly likeable character. Here Sauma has her GP Andre Cabral remembering his privileged childhood and adolescence in Brazil and the events which saw him exile himself from his country. I loved the portrayals of 1980s Brazil! Richly detailed prose allowed me to visualise the vibrant landscapes, city and small town locations, as well as giving me an understanding of Andre's way of life. The son of an affluent family, he didn't realise how spoilt he was at the time so we see his surprise at small events such as the first time he ever made himself breakfast - aged eighteen! His family employed two maids (empregadas) who saw to pretty much their every need, expected to work long hours and with just two days off a month.

I found the careless attitude of Andre and his friends towards empregadas particularly distasteful and Sauma presents this idea of superiority in an interesting way. We see Andre offended by the slurs his friends utter without understanding that he thinks of his maids exactly the same. A childish assumption persists that Rita and her daughter, Luana, live with the family because they want to and he doesn't really question Luana's having left school young, even though her correcting of his maths homework shows she is equally as intellectually capable. It is surely obvious that an empregada's daughter would have no greater ambition than to be an empregada herself.

I liked the device of Luana's letters to Andre. They provide an almost sinister undertone to the novel. I guessed fairly early on what her ultimate revelation would be, but this foreknowledge didn't detract from the story. Instead I thought it provided an inevitability that added to the tension. I would have liked to have also seen more of Luana's viewpoint as I think the tale could have been just as interesting, if not more so, through her eyes. Andre's shallowness is infuriating!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Luiza Sauma / Contemporary fiction / Books from Brazil


  1. Apart from the diversity of genres you read, I also love that you continue to find books from other countries. You are a traveller through and through. :D

    1. I love to discover other countries, even if I can't physically get there!

  2. This sounds like a very interesting read. I hadn't heard of it before now. Thanks for sharing. Great review!

  3. Never having to make yourself breakfast until age 18? That is definitely one privileged life you're living! I also haven't read too many books set in Brazil, so that will be a new side of things for me too.