Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma

IMG_4924“… I feel as if I’m flicking through a filing cabinet, reading files written in a language I once knew, but am out of practice in. The language of being young, of knowing nothing. I’m setting these memories out as though they came to me simply. This happened, then this and then this. But that’s not how it is. That’s not how it was.”

Flesh and Bone and Water is the story of André, a man who grew up in Brazil living a life of wealth and privilege as the son of a successful plastic surgeon. The tragic death of his mother leads to a shift in his life and as a restless teenager he daydreams of a life outside of Brazil. Decades later he is living in London with his wife and children, when out of the blue he starts to receive letters from a person from his past, which both startles and takes him back to that critical time in his life; the loss of his mother and the events that led to his departure from Rio. The novel travels back and forth from London to Brazil, revealing a story that André had repressed.

‘Isn’t it funny?… You yearn for things that you didn’t even like at the time.’

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This is a well-written and well-paced debut novel. The story flows smoothly from André’s present in London to his recollections of his life in Brazil after his mother’s death. For a relatively short novel it manages to deal with a lot of topics, primarily those of class, race, and privilege, and it does it well. The author also perfectly encapsulates the restlessness and carelessness of youth, along with that sad nostalgia felt in the present when revisiting the past. As mentioned, the pace of the novel is really well done and I breezed through the story as the truth behind André’s departure comes to light, which is ultimately quite shocking. Flesh and Bone and Water is a strong debut novel and I look forward to seeing more from this author.

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