Genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Stubborn Archivist is the story of an unnamed character, whose mother is from Brazil and father is an Englishman. Born in England but still with a foot in Brazil, she navigates life and tries to understand her identity and where she belongs.
This book came recommended to me by Rachel – thanks so much, this was such a great rec!
Stubborn Archivist reads like somewhere between literary fiction and contemporary, it’s both a quick and easy read and a difficult one. It’s quite clear to me that my review is very biased, since I saw myself and my experience in so much of this book – I’m from Brazil, live in Germany, speak English all day and my identity is a little here and a little there, too. Some of the conversations that are shown in this book have happened to me or with people I know, almost word by word.
The book reads like a bunch of thoughts, impressions and episodes of the lives of three women, one half-English half-Brazilian and the other two Brazilian women who lived in England at least at some point in their lives. It didn’t follow a particular plot, and while the main theme is identity, it also touches on several other topics that both enrich the story and leave us wanting more: consent, language, sacrifice, racism, Brazilian economics, history and politics. Since I have lots of context of Brazilian history for example, those flashes of it throughout the book held much more meaning I believe, than for someone who just came across it without any context. For example, when the author writes about Ana Paula and Isadora in the supermarket shopping quickly because the taxes raised the prices of food hourly, I don’t think the reader gets enough insight on how things were back then to really grasp the awfulness that was the economy in Brazil in the 90s. I wish the author had taken a bit more time to talk about those things.
Like Rachel said in her review, this book could’ve been more by going a bit deeper into some of the themes in the book, but as a Brazilian reading, it felt absolutely natural to read mentions of these cultural and historic references thrown in to the text. I found myself smiling, frowning, and nearly brought to tears through the story. So I think if you have more contact with Brazilian culture, you’ll find this book a lot more beautiful, otherwise it definitely feels like it’s kind of everywhere. To me, it felt like having finally, finally, seen myself in a book.
I do prefer literary fiction to have more of a plot & more flowery writing – but that is particular to my taste. If you’ve been dipping your toes into literary fiction and are terrified of reading something too flowery, too experimental, this is a good place to start!
I’m probably making this a mandatory read for people I know. It made a profound impression on me and I hope other expat Brazilians see themselves in this book, too.