Monica Ali Alentejo Blue

ISBN 13: 9780743293037

Alentejo Blue

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9780743293037: Alentejo Blue
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A new collection of short stories set in the Alentejo province of Portugal features a range of colorful characters, linked by a vivid sense of place and time, including Teresa, a beautiful young girl from the village engaged to a suitable man, who yearns to see the world, and Vasco, a caf‚ owner who is losing business to the new Internet caf‚ down the road. By the author of Brick Lane. 75,000 first printing.

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Review:

With the 2003 publication of her acclaimed debut novel, Brick Lane in 2003, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Monica Ali established herself as a keen observer of the human condition, in all its ordinariness and its follies. The setting was England, pre-and post-9/11, in an apartment house occupied mostly by Bangladeshi immigrants. In Alentejo Blue, the setting is a village community in Portugal, called Mamarossa. Once again, Ali has turned her unerring eye on the inner landscape of her characters. In a series of episodic vignettes, she limns the daily lives, hopes, wishes, and dreams of villagers and visitors alike. Her special gift is capturing the small detail that shows the person: the filthy rag that Vasco mindlessly uses to wipe the tables in his cafe as he muses about his dead American wife and what he will eat next; the smelly never-washed clothes that drunken China Potts appears in again and again. She doesn't shrink from the disgusting or the gross, but her revelations are never gratuitous. This is information the reader needs.

Stanton is the blocked writer who sits in Vasco's cafe, taking in the local scene. He becomes deeply involved with the truly messy Potts family: drunken father, spacey mother, promiscuous daughter and lonely young son. Interestingly, they make a stab at pulling themselves together; Stanton's answer is to find someplace else to sit, perhaps in a more northern clime.

Two of the best stories are those of young Teresa, a village native, who has a chance to leave for London and an au pair position. Will she be able to leave? Ali writes beautifully of all the things weighing on her decision. The other story is that of an engaged couple from England, taking a break from wedding planning, her mother, church, and all the folderol. He is adamantly against the whole charade; she doesn't want to talk about it. That isn't what their distance is about anyway, as we find out

The villagers are waiting for the arrival of Marco Alfonso Rodrigues, a man who left years ago and is reputed to possess great wealth. Everyone has a different idea of what will happen when he arrives and how his presence will impact the life of the village. When he finally arrives late in the story, nothing is quite as anticipated.

One of Ali's characters says, "We think we live like kings, but we are puppets on the throne. We send out proclamations and fancy we are making History and forget that it has made us." With great compassion and insight, Ali writes of her "kings," and we learn how their history has, indeed, formed them. She leaves us to wonder if they can change, or if they really want to. --Valerie Ryan

5 Second Blog Post

We had the opportunity to meet the lovely and talented Monica Ali when she stopped by our Seattle offices while on tour for her new book. We were so thrilled by meeting her that the three of us wrote about it in our Books Blog. Here is an excerpt:

Fans may recall Ali's debut novel, Brick Lane, which was centered around Islamic immigrants in pre- and post-9/11 England. Brick Lane was nominated for The National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003 and was also shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize. Monica Ali's latest book is set in a well known region of Portugal where she and her family sojourn for a few months of the year. When asked about the inspiration for Alentejo Blue, she confided that some of her neighbors might see a bit of themselves in the characters and narrative. But, she's hopeful that they'll recognize how she's transformed them within the context of the story. Read the entire post

About the Author:

Monica Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and grew up in England. She has been named by Granta as one of the twenty best young British novelists. She is the author of the novel Brick Lane, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is now a major motion picture, and Alentejo Blue, a story collection. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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