From Publishers Weekly
In his first novel, memoirist Sledge (Mother and Son
) imagines the life of poet Elizabeth Bishop and her lover, socialite and architect Lota de Macedo Soares, while they lived together in Brazil during the 1950s and '60s. Both women struggle with their demons as, from a remote mountain compound in Samambaia (where Lota has designed and built a glass house), Elizabeth wins the Pulitzer Prize and Lota rises to power in the turbulent political sphere of Rio de Janeiro. The book imagines much of the couple's tumultuous, tragically short relationship, based partially on Elizabeth's surviving letters, journals, and drafts (though her correspondence with Lota was burned by Lota's ex-lover). Sledge gives contour to their lives while artfully evoking Brazil's primeval rural landscape and uniquely urbane Rio (half jungle and half twentieth-century megalopolis), and peppers his narrative with appearances by notable contemporaries like Robert Lowell and Frank O'Hara. This is not the first fictionalized history of the couple during this period (when Bishop wrote Questions of Travel
and The Scream), but Sledge delivers a sensitive and engrossing variation. (June)
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The intensely private and much-revered real-life poet Elizabeth Bishop is vividly and imaginatively portrayed in Sledge's debut novel about Elizabeth's time in Brazil and her lengthy relationship with the riveting, mercurial Lota de Macedo Soares. Elizabeth travels to the half-wild, half-civilized megalopolis of Rio in the 1950s, and into the arms of the enticing Lota, the woman with whom she ends up living in a glass house in the Samambaian hills. Lota's ceaseless motion, with its germ of desperation, heightened Elizabeth's chronic anxiety, which she remedied by drinking herself numb to her self-doubt. Sledge's cinematic novel is as lush and fecund as the jungle itself, with its innumerable fruits, ferns, and hidden dangers, leaving readers with the indelible image of a brilliant, tormented woman writing tirelessly through the tropic night by the light of a kerosene lamp, her creativity fueled by “an injection of cortisone (for asthma) plus two cc's of adrenaline, a whiff of norisodrine sulphate, and a blast of gin and tonic.” Strong and intoxicating indeed. --Whitney Scott