The story of a daughter's longing for her absent father and her determination to piece together the past and the future
The setting of this extraordinary novel is an old farmhouse in Portugal-a house far enough from the Atlantic not to hear the breaking waves during a storm but near enough for the walls to be corroded by the salt in the air.
With most members of her large family having left the hardship of life in this landscape of sand and stone for jobs in faraway places, a young woman struggles to piece together her past from the widely varying stories she's been told. Left behind by a free-spirited, feckless father, a seducer with a rare gift for drawing, she is raised by her uncle who has married her mother. The only memories of her father's two brief visits are the echoes of his footsteps on the stairs leading to her room. The only signs of him are letters from the widest reaches of the world-letters accompanied by brilliantly colored drawings of exotic birds. The daughter longs for her father and, as she grows up, she is determined to find him and uncover the truth.
Brimming with astute and exquisite characterizations, this strikingly lyrical novel evokes the atmosphere of rural Portugal in a changing world and explores the timeless themes of family, independence, and the often painful experience of emigration.
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L'dia Jorge was born in 1946 in the Algarve region of Portugal. She studied French literature and then taught in Angola and Mozambique during the colonial wars. She has written eight novels and one collection of short stories. Along with José Saramago, she was awarded the City of Lisbon Prize for her second novel.
Walter Dias's daughter knows the truth. So do other members of her family, but they insist on saying that Walter is her uncle. The free-spirited Walter leaves behind his duties and his family in the old Portuguese farmhouse where he was raised to roam around the world. He sends home letters containing drawings of birds, and it is these mementos that his daughter keeps as she tries to piece together a sense of the father she has lost. Her uncle, Custodio, who married her mother to make her an honest woman, raises her. The daughter's only memories of her father are two brief visits, when he quietly steals up the steps to visit his "niece." Later, most of the girl's family emigrates to North and South America, and she begins to receive letters from them that tarnish her image of Walter and destroy her legacy. Jorge, who won the City of Lisbon Prize for this work (her second novel), has written a somewhat remote and uninvolving story about family, emigration, and independence that will appeal to fans of Jos Saramago. The text jumps in time from past to present without warning, and getting a handle on plot and characters can be difficult. Recommended for large literary collections only.DRobin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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