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The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao Hardcover – October 10, 2017
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“Brazilian journalist Batalha draws readers into 1940s Rio de Janeiro, where men are the breadwinners and the highest achievement for a woman is to marry and become an obedient housewife. Euridice is a beautiful, ambitious woman with incredible potential for great things, but she sacrifices her aspirations for the sake of her family. After her sister, Guida, runs away, Euridice marries Antenor, a banker who aims to achieve the status quo, and becomes trapped in the routine of married life. However, her ambitions and intellect lead her to pursue a number of highly successful projects. Despite her success, she is continuously ridiculed by the town gossip and is restrained by her own husband. The inherently rebellious Euridice and Guida find that to achieve satisfaction within society’s traditional expectations, they must carve out paths for themselves. Batalha’s debut shines a light on often-overlooked members of society and paints a thorough and riveting portrait of its characters that will keep readers engaged till the end.”
Named one of the best 18 Books to Read This Fall by Chicago Review of Books: "Humorous and exuberant, this book is a rare treat!"
"As a woman living in Brazil in the 1940s, Euridice Gusmao is expected to be a loving wife and mother. In marrying a traditional man, Euridice sacrifices her ambitions and passions for her parents’ sake, until the day that her runaway sister returns. With sharp humor and pointed prose, Marta Batalha’s novel rebels against the patriarchal forces of her home country.”
―World Literature Today
"A remarkable new voice."
― Vogue (Brazil)
Named by Bustle as One of 9 Fall Book Debuts by Women You're Going to Want to Read Immediately:
"You're going to love it. Batalha takes you through nearly 100 years of life in Rio de Janeiro.... filled with intrigue, mystery, sadness, and a whole lot of strong female leads, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao isn't a novel to miss this season."
"This multigenerational epic takes us from Brazil in the 1940s to 1918 when the Spanish flu affected half of Rio, to the Gusmao’s household, and to the 1968 Brazilian coup d’état. Both epic and grandiose, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is also intimate and cozy, and let us not forget―funny, and witty, and inventive. Through that personal and historical exploration, Martha’s writing comes out as whimsical and picaresque. The humor is part of the novel’s rhythm and musicality. The premise of a dull housewife may seem quotidian, but Martha Batalha’s humorous plot and writing turn that Kafkaesque everydayness into something almost Seinfeldian. Humorous and sensitive, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is a warm exploration of family and circumstance. Despite its larger-than-life events, everyday life is what builds and sustains this novel. Euridice and Guida are two fascinating and memorable characters that carry the book with charm. Martha Batalha’s mature writing, which is also smooth and intoxicating, seasoned with characteristic authority and jolliness, and an immersive plot, makes this book a narrative delight."
"One of the writers to watch in 2017."
― Elle Magazine (Spain)
Baltalha’s debut is earthy and witty, with heroines who are memorable and inspiring. Martha Baltalha’s debut novel, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, follows two sisters as they come of age in 1940s Rio de Janeiro. Euridice is the younger and more serious of the pair, while Guida is the elder, a self-assured beauty determined to have her way, even when determination turns to disappointment. Guida enchants the son of a prominent local family, but his parents disapprove of the relationship and cut him off. The affair ends badly, leaving Guida pregnant, alone, and forced to rely on her ever-increasing street smarts to make a life for herself and her baby. Euridice, on the other hand, attempts to be the good daughter in her family, marrying a man she feels less than thrilled about for security and respectability. Euridice’s keen intelligence and varied talents are suppressed by her bourgeois parents; like many women of her era, she accepts domesticity and motherhood as part of her fate. She feels that marriage is something “endemic,” to be endured, like having the flu. Though the novel has an underlying tone of subtly wry humor, this does not lessen the depth of the narrative. Euridice’s obsessive outlets for her thoughts and energies―first a passion for cooking, and then a home-based dressmaking business―are engagingly related, if they are ultimately quashed by her husband’s disapproval. Euridice turns her passion to literature, typing away for hours at her mysterious opus, The History of Invisibility. The novel spans from late nineteenth century Rio to the early 1960s, detailing the tenacious poverty of Estácio, the bland middle class of Tijuca, and the more cosmopolitan Ipanema. Baltalha writes with a vivid resonance, creating distinctive characters in Euridice and Guida, the motherly prostitute Filomena, and Zélia, Euridice’s spitefully snoopy neighbor. While many of the women’s fathers, husbands, sons, and lovers act in domineering or destructively weak-willed ways, they often seem to be more products of their culture and time than outright villains. The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is earthy and witty, and the lives of its heroines of everyday existence are memorable and inspiring."
"Euridice and Guida, two temperamentally distinct sisters who remain estranged for much of this beguiling novel, share a dormant acumen for business that they’ll eventually be compelled to tap, given the limited options afforded to women in 1940s Rio de Janeiro.
Has all that much changed? we can hear the author sighing between the breathless pauses of her fable-like saga, which fans out from the domestic purgatories of the sisters Gusmao to portray a comically stultifying (and dismayingly of-the-moment) community of narrow-minded parents, embittered neighbors and disparaging teachers who collectively snuff the promise and ambition from gifted women. The primary culprits are the men: freighted with an old-school sense of honor and a retrograde playbook of machismo, which dictates that as children they can no longer cry for their nursemaids or “feel sympathy for the cats that had their tails lopped off by the boys who one day would run the country.”
Batalha winkingly employs echoing names like Antenor, Antonio, Alfonso and Alvaro to suggest that her male characters have all tumbled out of the same chauvinistic nest, but she makes them (along with her less admirable women characters) individuals with elaborate back stories that confer a ray of humanity, if not the benefit of the doubt. In this translation from the Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker, Batalha’s empathy is buoyed by puckish wordplay and nostalgia for a time when an act of emancipation entailed a manual typewriter and a good smoke: “Each cigarette was a cry of freedom that was complete in itself and left no tracks.”"
--The New York Times Book Review
"The arc of this novel, the writing, the characters, are a joy to read."
"In a clever and unusual way, Batalha takes the reader for a journey in the streets of the old Rio de Janeiro, filled with amusing tales told through its array of memorable characters. It's a fun and delightful novel that makes one reflect about our own past and present."
―Carlos Saldanha, director of the film RIO
"Batalha is one of those rare writers who are able to summarize entire lives in single paragraphs, so when she spends an entire book in a single life, the reader is in for a treat.
This novel cheerfully, but pointedly, makes visible the lives of creative women who have been confined to a household.
You will come across many people in this book, and they will all make you smile in recognition."
-- Laia Jufresa, author of Umami
"There are writers that pride themselves in writing about their own neighborhood as though it could encapsulate the entire universe. Martha M. Batalha is no such writer. Her novel The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao encompasses not only a vast Rio de Janeiro, from North to South and across Downtown, but also spans for 80 years ― from 1880 through 1960 ― in order to tell the story of numerous families ruled by beautiful, stubborn women. It is an epic saga, a roman-fleuve. The difference is that Martha, a contemporary author, combines drama and humor with a savoir-faire unfailably modern."
― Ruy Castro, author of Bossa Nova and Garrincha
"This novel recovers the voices of so many women who were trapped by the role they were supposed to play: the dedicated wife, the romantic lover, the one who lives simply to care for others. But Martha Batalha is smart enough to tell the story of the brilliant sisters Guida and Euridice with humour, social awareness and wit. The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is intelligent and funny and also a great introduction to Brazilian literature, which has perhaps not yet gained the international recognition it deserves."
-- Mariana Enriquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire
"If I had to choose only one literary asset amongst the lot that makes The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao such a remarkable narrative, I would point its most unique trait, one that enhances the state of the contemporary Brazilian novel itself: its piercing, unabashed and most of all, incredibly clever sense of humor."
―Alberto Mussa, author of The Mystery of Rio
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The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, Martha Batalha, (Translated by Eric M.B. Becker)
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is a humorous and quirky novel. What originally caught my attention was the gorgeous cover. Being Dominican-American I am familiar with "rolos" aka hair rollers. This is Batalha's first novel (translated by Eric M.B. Becker) and I dig her unique anecdotes and wry humor. Sisters, Euridice and Guida are beautiful, intelligent, and rebellious (my kind of gals). I fell in love with Euridice and found myself cheering for her throughout the novel. You see, although Euridice is a housewife in Brazil in the 1940's, she is also a genius full of tremendous capabilities. She feels bored and dissatisfied being a housewife and yearns to do so much more! And whatever Euridice puts her mind to, she conquers. Sadly, Euridice's aspirations are not deemed important by her husband, Antenor. As the sole provider, Antenor demands Euridice to raise their two kids, and take care of the family (period). However, Euridice pays him no mind and this is where the adventure begins. She becomes a master chef, then a seamstress, and finally a writer (with lots happening in between). I absolutely love and recommend this charming, quirky, witty novel. I look forward to additional stories by this innovative and unique author. I'm in luck because according to her website she's currently working on her second novel. WOOHOO :-)
Alas, not so for Euridice Gusmao.
I read this book in less than one day. I could not stop. Ms Batalha is a very good writer. The way she explains about other characters; how they came to be or in the more popular vernacular "their backstory" is excellent.
I just did not like any of the characters in the book. It was hard to feel any compassion for Euridice who sacrificed her abilities, her capabilities, her self esteem to make up for "the sins" of her sister.
That she then embraces the return of this sister later in the novel is confounding.
Filomena, the cavity prone prostitute seems to be the most admirable and thus most likeable character in the work.
I do recommend the novel and hope to read more from Ms Batalha in the future.
The reader is hard pressed to feel any compassion for Euridice.
She is a victim of herself.
Euridice, though disappointed continues to make sure Antenor is pleased, and he is rarely without the comfort of a home made meal and well kept home. “That man, she knew, was a good husband. Antenor never disappeared for days and never lifted a hand to her. He brought in a good salary, complained very little, and conversed with the children.“ Euridice then takes on a sewing venture and becomes a popular neighborhood seamstress. This endeavor is shut down by Antenor as unnecessary, stressing that Euridice doesn’t need the money as she is well taken care of.
You would think that this would make for a depressing novel and a distressed protagonist. But the author writes with heavy doses of humor and offbeat sensibilities that Euridice becomes one easy to root for. You see Euridice was ambitious and talented from an early age, having an offer to travel the world and play her recorder (flute like instrument) with one of the world’s recognized master composer. Her parents shut down that idea and after a brief struggle Euridice gives up the fight, and when her sister Guida takes off and elopes, Euridice feels a sense of responsibility and settles into being an obedient and helpful daughter. She becomes “the Side of Euridice that Didn’t Want Euridice to Be Euridice.“
Guida eventually returns home but not after going through some trying times and making difficult choices. This is a fun novel that speaks to the human heart. Are we all consigned to our lives by the loves we choose or commitments we make? How often does one submerge their own desires to support those of children and spouse? Is it wholly necessary to give up a bit of one’s visibility to sustain a marriage? Martha Batalha deftly explores these themes and others in this wonderful, crazy and hilarious novel. Euridice eventually turns to writing, busily tearing off pages from the typewriter and putting them in a desk drawer for someone to discover the bound leafs of paper,“first page that reads The History of Invisibility, and if this someone has the patience and the wisdom to read those pages, they will quickly understand that Euridice’s book is too important to belong to a single library alone.“ And this book is too exuberant to go unread.
Thanks to Edelweiss and Oneworld Publications for an advanced ebook.