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Alentejo Blue    by Monica Ali order for
Alentejo Blue
by Monica Ali
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2006 (2006)

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*   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Monica Ali follows up her acclaimed first novel, Brick Lane, with a book that takes place in the Alentejo region of Portugal, in a village called Mammarosa. The book is a series of loosely interconnected stories based on the lives of the villagers or people who were transplanted to the region for one reason or another.

There is Stanton, the frustrated writer, who has affairs with both mother and daughter, despite having befriended the son and father; the engaged couple, Huw and Sophie, the latter having second thoughts; and Marco, a local legend, who returns to town under a cloud of suspicion.

As a reader, it was tough trying to figure out how the various players were connected, or what they had in common. Perhaps they each had unrealized dreams, disappointments and disillusionments. Regardless, the story was somewhat depressing, and I did not feel that the author tied everything together at the end. The characters were not fully developed - I would have preferred instead a full-length novel about one of the characters.

The storyline I enjoyed the most was that of Teresa, who spent her time anticipating consummation of her relationship with Antonio while imagining leaving Portugal for London. At times, Ali's prose really does shine, but good prose alone is irrelevant without a good story to glue it all together.

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