Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa
|Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa
|Category: Literary Fiction
|Reviewer: Rachel Holmes
|Summary: A beautifully narrated poetic novel, translated from Portuguese, following the journey of a young teenager as she attempts to discover the truth about her roots. What this lacks in plot, it certainly makes up for through the wonderful exploration of themes such as culture, language and relationships.
|Date: October 2013
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
|External links: Author's website
Having lost her mother at the age of thirteen, Evangelina embarks on a quest to not only find her biological father, but to delve into the past and discover things about her mother she never knew. Set predominantly in North America and Brazil, this novel explores Vanja's journeys, both physical and emotional, as well as her relationships with key characters, in particular, that of her Mother's ex husband, Fernando. Uprooting herself when barely a teenager, Vanja leaves her home country of Brazil to live with Fernando in Colorado, the only connection she has at her disposal to enable her to trace her roots and biological family. Narrated beautifully in the first person, the reader is propelled into the thoughts and feelings of the young but courageous, determined and, at times, very wise, adolescent girl.
Intertwined with Vanja's story is that of Fernando and his past involvement in the guerrilla movement in the Amazon forests. Whilst this account (also told with Vanja as narrator) adds an interesting political and historical theme to the novel, I found it slightly too fragmented from the actual plot and it didn't seem to flow as organically as it perhaps should have done. There were a few moments in particular where I was expecting a new revelation about Vanja or Fernando in the present time, only to be catapulted back to 1970's Latin America warfare. Having said this, I did feel that it gave depth to Fernando's character, enabling the reader to understand how he became the person he did. However, I couldn't help thinking that it was possibly Lisboa's attempt to portray some of her own thoughts regarding the political history of her native country.
Crow Blue is both simple and complex at the same time. Often, the narration is wonderfully simplistic, written superbly from a teenage girl's perspective. The lack of quotation marks for dialogue added to the authenticity of Vanja's character and I was truly able to see situations from her perspective. In contrast, Lisboa also uses such striking imagery and metaphors such as The snow conspires with the desert. Things lose their contours and the all-white sky sticks to the all-white roof, making worlds collide… that it almost becomes about the words themselves, rather than the plot or action. This could be seen as good or bad, depending on one's preferences, but I enjoyed the juxtaposition and thought it gave the novel a unique element. I also thought the themes of culture, language and nativeness were explored brilliantly through each of the characters' lives and their relationships with others. Again, the contrast continued throughout the novel as this was addressed both subtly and explicitly.
As for the title itself, I have to say, I'm not usually a fan of symbolic suggestions (as Crow Blue certainly is), however, it is very poignant and relative to the themes in the novel as it connects Vanja's childhood by the beach in Copacabana to her life in Colorado. Again, this is down to preference, but I like to at least be given a hint in the title as to what the plot might be about.
The ending, in my opinion, was a little unfulfilling. I expected a big revelation in regards to Vanja's father or Fernando's story but both failed to materialise. I did, however, find it interesting how Lisboa filled in the gaps in the years that followed the novel's setting in terms of Vanja's journey and development. One particular quote towards the end when Lisboa describes Vanja's return to Brazil, for me, sums up the theme of entire novel, Things were the same and different…The city was the same and it wasn't. The city was different and it wasn't.
Overall, I thought Crow Blue was a beautifully written, poetic novel with truly believable, genuine characters, each having their own story and cultural battles, whether literal or metaphorical. The two things that let the novel down for me were the constant movement of stories, both in time and space, which seemed to restrict the natural flow of the plot, and the disappointing ending. I think when reading this book, you need to appreciate the style of literary, writing, symbols, themes and imagery, rather than expect big revelations in the actual plot.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Crow Blue by Adriana Lisboa at Amazon.com.
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