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Heliopolis Paperback – 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: HARVILL SECKER (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846551889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846551888
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,006,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first heard about this book when I read that it was on the long list for Man Booker prize. I can see why it was nominated, since it was an excellent read. There is much to enjoy here, starting with the exotic locale of São Paulo, where the divide between rich and poor is incredibly stark. This is a world where the ultra-rich fly (commute, really) in helicopters between their penthouses, their office buildings and their private villas outside of the city. But what makes this story so fun to read is the richly drawn character of Ludo, the central figure. I found that I felt I could understand him, and get to know him (and his inner struggles) throughout the course of the story. Overall, the author conveys a sense of realism that is unique and creates an immersive effect. This is one of those books that you are disappointed to finish because you could go on and on. Also - there is a mystery that builds throughout the tale, only revealed at the very end - and that also will pull you through the pages, as you seek to find out the answers. I really enjoyed this book by Mr. Scudamore, and I will now read his first novel - The Amnesia Clinic.
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Format: Paperback
Raised in Brazil, Japan, and the UK, author James Scudamore sets this novel in Sao Paulo, a city he obviously knows well, revealing his youthful enthusiasm for life, his sharp eye for injustice, and his hope for the future in a tale which follows the life of Ludo dos Santos from his childhood till about age twenty-seven. Ludo and his mother, a cook, were plucked from Heliopolis, the largest favela (slum) in Sao Paulo, and established permanently at the weekend farm belonging to Zeno "Ze" Generoso, the fabulously wealthy owner of a chain of supermarkets, his British wife Rebecca, and their daughter Melissa. As we know from the opening pages, Ze eventually adopts Ludo, schools him, and makes him a part of the high life.

Telling Ludo's story through flashbacks and foreshadowings of things to come in the future, Scudamore quickly establishes the atmosphere and the dramatic contrasts between the lives of the poor and those of the rich in a city with virtually no middle class. In a touching and revealing scene at the opening of the novel, Ludo, in his twenties, is killing time during a traffic jam before work, exploring a neighborhood in the process of redevelopment. A fifteen-year-old boy, a grifter, is begging for money from two women in the square. Egged on by Ludo, the boy then approaches the wrong person to ask for money, and disaster strikes. Though Ludo blames himself for what happens, the event is ultimately "just one more frenzied city drama in a thousand, to be forgotten and absorbed into the oozing traffic, and perhaps mentioned in passing over lunch."

Caught between the world of the favela, which he does not remember, and the world of the rich, to which he feels he does not really belong, Ludo is unsure of his place in the world.
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Format: Paperback
The setting for this novel is 21st century São Paulo, a dual city defined by its massive skyscrapers and squalid favelas (shanty towns), personal helicopters overhead and horribly congested roads below, wealthy white and poor (mostly) black citizens, and its tightly packed center city surrounded by heavily guarded neighborhoods with European styled mansions and heliports for the country's elite.

Ludo is a boy who was born to a single mother in a favela, where the only opportunities available to escape soul crushing poverty are in the illegal drug trade or prostitution. He and his mother are discovered by a wealthy businessman, Zé Generoso, who controls his family, employees and associates with a ready smile and an iron will, and his philanthropic but detached wife Rebecca. The couple bring Ludo and his mother to their suburban mansion, which serves as their weekend getaway. Ludo is befriended by their beautiful daughter Melissa, and is provided with every opportunity to succeed by Zé, who recognizes his drive and intelligence. He "works" for one of his father's friends in a marketing firm during the day, spending much of his time sleeping off hangovers or thinking about Melissa, who shares her bed with him when her idealistic but neglectful husband is out of town. Despite his success Ludo is restless and unsatisfied, as he repeatedly takes personal and professional risks that threaten to unravel his playboy lifestyle -- or endanger his life.

Heliopolis was a far better read than I originally expected it to be. It is taut and fast paced, but also lush and well written, with excellent character development, and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader fully engaged. It deserves its place amongst this year's Booker Prize longlisted novels, and is highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Heliopolis is a satirical novel about capitalism, class structure and finding your place amid the cruelty and chaos of third world urban life, the city in this case being Sao Paulo, Brazil. The story is narrated in the first person by Ludo, who is plucked from a hopeless life in one of the city's largest slums by supermarket magnate Ze Carnicelli and his magnanimous wife Rebecca. Ludo's mother is set up as the cook on Ze's country estate, while Ludo is educated and eventually adopted by the Carnicellis. After the adoption, Ludo moves from the bucolic simplicity of his mother's kitchen to Ze's heavily guarded msnsion in Sao Paulo.

The adolescent Ludo develops extremely close ties with Ze's daughter Melissa, a relationship that carries into adulthood and threatens his peace of mind and her marriage. Through Ze's connections, Ludo gets hired as an advertising executive. Disaffected at his day job, Ludo is increasingly drawn to the street life of the slums adjacent to his office. He's struggling to reconcile how the place he has arrived at connects with the place he came from. When Ze decides to build budget supermarkets to sell meat and produce to the poor, Ludo gets assigned to put the correct advertising spin on the project. As he ponders the project, and his history with Ze, Ludo can't sort out the big-hearted philanthropy from base opportunism.

The head of Ludo's agency decides to invite the occupants of the surrounding slum to a launch party for the new supermarkets. Worlds collide, but the fireworks Scudamore has built toward fizzle somewhat at the end. But even if the climax is slightly flat, the novel shows us a place we tend to ignore or experience only through the caricature of newspaper headlines.
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