Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali

alentejo blue From the author of Brick Lane, Monica Ali brings us a story of individuals and their way of interacting with their environment, in Alentejo Blue, and within her prose we see her brilliance shine through.

What is it like to live in a village, with familial lines that reach back generations? We see some of the answers to that question through Ali’s sensitive, thoughtful, and bold writing. And, for those that pass through, did they manage to find the peace of mind they needed, or the escape from their situation? Ali brings us those answers, and so much more, in this study of men and women of all ages and backgrounds…people searching for identity, for redemption, for contentment.

The book opens with an elderly man, and his reflections on his life, his troubled life. He is anxiously awaiting the return of Marco Afonso, a son of the village of Mamarrosa, his roots embedded in the village. “He waited for the courage to look up and see his face. When it came, he whispered in his lacerated old man’s voice, “Querido,” he said.” Villagers and tourists alike are affected by his return. Petty differences and jealousies arise, and are fueled.

Vasco, dealing with the loss/death of his wife, seems to feel that he is better than most, due to the fact that he lived in the U.S. for several years. There is the dysfunctional family, The Potts, family members who are trying to run away from their problems. The reader sees nineteen-year old Teresa, trying to escape her current life. Each person appears to be infused within themselves, self-absorbed and at times indifferent to what is occurring around them.

Each character brings a feeling of yearning to the book, along with longing and desire, and we see how their lives are entwined with each other, and how each must learn to accept the other for who, and for what they are. The humanness and frailties of each one bonds them together.

Although the book might seem to be a set of individual stories, that is not the case. Each person’s story eventually intertwines with another character, within the pages.

Ali’s writing brings us a strong sense of time and place, in a thoughtful, yet daring fashion, with characters we don’t soon forget, in Alentejo Blue.

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