Friday 8 May 2009

Beautiful man

Well, sweeties, my vacation is almost at an end: tomorrow morning, at the obscene hour of 8:30, I will be flying on a jet plane back to Toronto, work, and my dear hubby. It's been a good rest - I've slept and read a hell of a lot and allowed myself the pleasure of going a little crazy in all my favourite Halifax (used) bookstores. (I'll be doing a little feature on said bookstores sometime next week so stay tuned!)

This is what I've purchased for myself: Gaetan Soucy's Vaudeville!, Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes, Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody, 5 by Ellis Peters (!!!), and my mother gave me her copy of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise. Of course, except for the Ellis Peters novel I'm about to begin reading (the fourth Brother Cadfael mystery, which it took me ages to find), it'll likely be 6 months to a year before I read any of these.

As is the case for Rose City Reader, books usually need to sort of percolate in my brain for awhile before I'm ready to read them. For example, I bought Jorge Amado's Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon just about a year ago now, when I was working at Bay and Bloor and going out every three days to spend my hard earned cash on more books. I wanted to read it immediately, but just somehow didn't...

But my goodness, it was worth the wait. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is just a beautiful novel. The writing and translating are amazing and the story so utterly compelling that absolutely the only thing I've wanted to do for the past 2 days is sit alone somewhere and lose myself in it. This novel tells the story of a coastal cacao town in Brazil in the 20s and the resulting pains and joys as it strives against the old guard to become a modern city. Amado presents a very large cast of characters, all of whom are entirely unique and completely unforgettable, but at the centre are Nacib and Gabriela, a local bar owner and his cook/lover/wife (briefly).

As Ilheus is figuring out what it means to civilize itself in terms of politics and commerce, it's also figuring out what for it civilization means in terms of relationships between men and women. Nacib and Gabriela cause each other a lot of bliss and agony as they figure things out (well, while Nacib does - Gabriela is always just herself, which Nacib takes a long time to accept.)

I think I like this book almost too much to say anything about it. I still feel as though I'm there, in Ilheus, with the flowers blooming in the plaza and the dust blowing down the streets and Gloria looking longingly out of her window and the men in the Vesuvius looking longingly back at her. I'll stop. I'm going to become insufferably gushy and maudlin if I don't. The only other thing I'll add is this: Gabriela always refers to Nacib as "Beautiful man", and because I am a little in love with Jorge Amado and maybe a little with Nacib as well, that will be the title of this post.


Nan said...

I love Diary of A Nobody beyond words! I think I've read it three times. Perfect book.

Sarah said...

I've got some time of work in a week and I can't wait! Like yourself,I'll be hitting my favourite bookshops.

A Pair of Blue Eyes is really good, I was suprised I hadn't heard more about it when I read it last year.

As yourself and Eva at A Striped Armchair have both raved about Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon I will have to try it.

Bookphilia said...

Nan: That's quite the endorsement! I'll try not to wait 6 months before I get to it.

Sarah: I'll be interested to see what you think of Gabriela! And I'll try not to neglect A Pair of Blue Eyes for too long, either.