The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles
Emilia and Luczia grew up in the early part of the 20th century in the small village of Taquaritinga, Brazil with their aunt after losing both of their parents. Aunt Sofia is the seamstress for the local colonel and teaches both girls her skill. Luczia’s life is irrevocably changed when she falls out of a tree as a child. Set incorrectly, her elbow is locked, causing the arm to be difficult to use and setting her apart from others in their village, making her unmarrigeable to any of the local boys. Young adulthood shows Emilia and Luczia to be two very different people: Luczia has grown used to the freedom of being different while Emilia desires to be fashionable and get out of the interior of Brazil, to go to Recife, if not to an even bigger city.
From these attitudes, the girls’ choices pull them apart. When a cancageiro called the Hawk comes through Taquaritinga he invites Luczia to join him and his gang. As a result of the stress of losing her neice to the cancageiros and her exposure to stormy weather that night, Aunt Sofia passes away, prompting Emilia to do whatever it takes to get out of Tanquaritinga where there is no longer anything to hold her and to Recife. In their new realms, both girls end up attaining some measure of noteriety as they try to make their ways as best as they can. Although they are now living very different lives, the way they live them will begin to draw the girls back together again.
The first thing that you’ll notice about “The Seamstress” is that it is long, nearly 650 pages. Once you notice that, you may guess that it isn’t exactly jam-packed with action. Well, you’re right, it is hard to write 650 pages that are jam-packed with action. That being said, “The Seamstress” is not a book I had to slog through in the least. Rather, it was one where I would suddenly say, “Wait, did I just read 50 pages? How did that happen?” It is both a quick read and a book that had me so enthralled that I didn’t notice the passage of time until my baby reminded me of it.
I loved the characters of Emilia and Luczia and how they grew over the course of the book. I loved the storyline that de Pontes Peebles put together. Mostly, though, I loved the way that, through this book, I was immersed in pre-WWII Brazil. I fell fully into Brazilian society, understanding the challenges of the countryside and the cities and the difficulties of balance between the two. This was simply fantastic historical fiction for giving me a sense of place ant time. I hope that de Pontes Peebles writes more!
“The Seamstress” is now out in paperback, which helps the weight issue of wanting to haul a 600+ page book with you everywhere you go.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review!