Alentejo Blue.

Position:Book review

*** Alentejo Blue By Monica Ali Life after Salazar.

In Mamarrosa, a village in the Alentejo region of Portugal, different men's and women's lives drift in and out of nine semiconnected tales. An octogenarian discovers his ex-Communist friend and lover's suicide; meanwhile, the new Internet cafe tries for a working connection. A British writer works on a literary biography, as the local tavern owner recalls the death of his American wife. Many, including a beautiful teenage girl and a strange English family, seek refuge in Mamarrosa. For others, the village represents opportunity and change--or dreams and personal connections squandered and lost.

Scribner. 226 pages. $24. ISBN: 0743293037

Oregonian ****

"Mamarossa is like that undiscovered town not in any guidebook, a type of place that's so far removed from touristy conformity that it feels real, like stepping back in time or walking into a painting. Ali lovingly describes the region's charms, from its tiny whitewashed homes to the women picking oranges in the eucalyptus-scented air." NICOLE CHVATAL

Baltimore Sun ***1/2

"This is Ali's more ambitious and accomplished novel, depicting not one but many varieties of expatriate experience in Alentejo, as well as the foreigners' impact on the indigenous population.... But Ali's reversion to third-person omniscient narration in the last story is the real innovation and surprise--one that, alas, doesn't have whatever effect was intended." LAURA DEMANSKI

Minneapolis Star Tribune ***

"The Potts family, a British couple and their two children who live in drug-addled squalor outside the town, seems worthy of a novel all its own, and Chrissie, the ostensible matron, has a fabulous voice.... What Ali doesn't quite manage in Alentejo Blue is any kind of convincing connection between each of the book's nine chapters." BRAD ZELLAR

Philadelphia Inquirer ***

"Nothing much happens, except for the schemes of the young to escape its nothingness, and the bargains made by the old, who no longer desire escape. That nothingness provides the central tension of the book." GAIUTRA BAHADUR

NY Times Book Review **1/2

"Ali seems intent on showing that geography can be illusory: her characters live and breathe not so much in the Alentejo that surrounds them as in the cul-de-sacs and alleys of their own thoughts.... To let them loose into the dusty streets of Mamarrosa to act and...

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