Genre: Historical Fiction, Brazil, South America
The Seamstress is a good read, and truly an epic in every sense. The book is set in North Eastern Brazil, spanning from 1928 to 1935. The novel tells the story of the Dos Santos sisters, Emilia and Luzia; young women who have been raised in an isolated village located in the interior. The sisters are both talented seamstresses, having been trained by their Aunt since childhood, but they possess very different temperaments. Emilia is beautiful and desires above all else to escape to one of the cities, such as Sao Paulo, that she has read about in her Fon Fon fashion magazines. She dreams of being a great lady living in a mansion, far from the dirt floors of her youth. Luzia, whose deformity in the form of a permanently bent arm as the result of a childhood accident, is referred to as Victrola by the village children and adults alike. Her disability has already limited many of the dreams and ambitions that she might have held for her future; perhaps her greatest wish is to escape from the village where that very disability defines everything about her. Of course both sisters do ultimately leave their small village, but not in the way they anticipate. Luzia is taken by a band of outlaws led by the mysterious Hawk, while Emilia marries a man she hardly knows, the wealthy son of a doctor in Recife. Their two lives become increasingly polarized by their very different experiences. Neither finds themselves able to reveal the existence of the other, but always they hold the knowledge of the other close to their hearts.
It was clear that this book was a labor of love. The novel was clearly well-researched, and each phrase seemed carefully and lovingly crafted. I did enjoy the story and the characters. At times, I did find the story dragging a bit, but it quickly picked up. I also found the bond between the sisters to be fascinating. Perhaps this is because I don't have a sister of my own. The character of the Hawk was especially intriguing. He was so enigmatic. I loved that I could never guess what he was going to do next. I do have to admit that I found Luzia's story to be the more interesting, and that I found myself hurrying a bit more over the chapters dealing with Emilia's experiences. Overall, I enjoyed the book, even if it didn't quite live up to my expectations.