Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi

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Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Great writing and a great story - not one to miss.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 195 Date: November 2010
Publisher: Canongate
ISBN: 978-1847675712

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The summer of 1938 was particularly hot and oppressive in Lisbon and Dr Pereira was suffering. He was overweight to start with and the situation wasn't helped by the amount of sugary lemonade which he drank. He was the cultural editor of an undistinguished newspaper and felt over-burdened by the amount of content he had to produce but this was better than the political side of the paper as he was sure that he wanted nothing to do with European politics. Something of a recluse, his closest, indeed only, confidante was a picture of his dead wife. All that was about to change when he met Francesco Monteiro Rossi - a strangely charismatic young man who would bring Pereira to the point of committing an act of reckless rebellion.

Some books draw you in and simply won't let go. When you've finished it you'll wonder how quite so much can have been said in so few words. You'll be staggered that in the course of two or three hours you've digested a political history of Portugal in the 1930s, a thriller which will have you turning the pages as quickly as you can and then regretting that they've been read so quickly and a love story between a man and his long-dead wife. It is, quite simply, stunningly good. It will linger around the edges of your mind long after you've finished reading.

Lisbon and the surrounding countryside come off the page. You feel the heat of the city, the refreshing chill of the sea and the beauty of the countryside. But above all it's the big themes that envelop you: love, corruption, courage under an authoritarian regime and the reverse of the coin - betrayal . It's a tragedy, but it's uplifting and inspiring. The most surprising point is that despite the fact that it deals with so many major themes the book is impossible to put down.

The secret to the brevity is the way in which the book is written. It's there in the title: Pereira Maintains. It's not a standard third-person narrative, but a testimonial. The phrase appears regularly in the text, sometimes to tell us that there are things which we do not need to know. There's no explanation of why Dr Pereira's testimonial is being recorded in this almost impersonal way – and it's all the more chilling for that. It's a story beyond the story you're reading. Superb.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Small Memories by Jose Saramago.

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