A Far Country

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Though she is still a child, she must face the responsibilities of adulthood in an alien and frightening environment.

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Haunted by Isaias's absence, she becomes obsessed with finding him. Isabel has formed her understanding of the world in a place where the land and the rain shape and influence people's lives. Living in the shanties, she has lost everything she knows. How does she cope now that her life skills and even her vocabulary have been made redundant by city life? As she is barely literate, her reality is restricted to her day-to-day experiences.

This is my view; it is not spelled out clearly. When you close the book at its end, you ask yourself what the book is saying. I have given you my response. The book is neither plot oriented nor focused upon character portrayal. The central character is and remains a detached, bland and faceless cipher.

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Stating this outright is bound to push many prospective readers away, but this book is not going to suit all readers! Hang on a second. I have not yet told you what makes the book special. The details put you in a place, put your own feel there on the ground so you see what the characters are living and seeing. The story begins in a poor rural community where sugar cane is grown, but there is a severe drought.

The land is plagued by long, extended droughts, not just once in a while but often. The droughts are a recurring hardship that must be borne by the people, a hardship over which they have no control. The land is being modernized—roads are being built, but for the country poor these bring only more problems.

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Political corruption and conflicts between different social classes and between old ways and the new throw life off kilter. There exists no longer any script for how life is to be lived. How do entrenched Catholic guidelines, mystical beliefs and old traditions fit in with the new? The drought continues. Changes must be made. His sister, Isabel, soon follows. She is a mere fourteen years of age.

Tension mounts. The trip south is frightening. The address Isabel has been given is useless, but she does eventually find her cousin. What is really frightening is her smallness, her being a grain of sand among millions and millions of other grains of sand.

A Far Country by Winston Churchill, First Edition

One senses impending doom. Tension mounts, then subsides only to mount again. Very little actually happens, but what does happen is frightening. At one point, Isabel view spoiler [loses the baby child she is caring for on a bus hide spoiler ]. Her existence in this new world so utterly foreign, strange and threatening to her is palpably felt.

Does Isabel find her brother? Does she remain in the city or return north? Isabel has psychic powers. They are realistically woven into the story. They are drawn more as intuitions than as pure magic. Reading this book, you feel aloneness and helplessness. You feel as one small insignificant pinprick in a large mass of many.

In the city danger arises when least expected, from you know not where, out of the blue. In the rural north hunger and the caprices of weather loom dark, but there at least exists a sense of community. That which is drawn for the reader are the vicissitudes coupled to urbanization. Being made aware of problems is the first and vital step before change. Kate Reading reads the audiobook.

She does not intrude into the story. She reads it very well and so I have given the narration four stars. This book is not going to fil all readers, but I like it a lot and so give it four stars. View all 10 comments. Jun 21, Julie Christine rated it really liked it Shelves: historical-fiction , latin-america-theme-setting. A quiet but fierce novel. Then I read two interviews with Mason where he stated he was working on a novel set in Brazil Mason offer the mystical, mythology, a sense of fable- all swirling like feathery clouds through the stony reality of poverty, fami A quiet but fierce novel.

Mason offer the mystical, mythology, a sense of fable- all swirling like feathery clouds through the stony reality of poverty, famine, drought, civil unrest, racism, slums and violence. Isabel leaves the protection of her family circle in a village stricken by drought and famine in the country's north to seek her beloved older brother, Isaias.

Isaias ran off to find his fortune as a musician in the country's fabled city of gold and the family fears what has become of him. Most of the book follows Isabel's quest to find her brother from her journey south to her life in the city, where she shares a one room flat in the projects with her cousin and minds the cousin's baby.

The baby becomes her companion during her increasingly bold circuits through her neighborhood and eventually into the city in search of her cherished soulmate and kin. Isabel is barely a teen but carries the depressed and resigned soul of someone decades her elder. Her wanderings seem aimless and the plot vague, but it comes together with a rush of breath and a bittersweet resolution. Mason's writing is beautiful, lyrical, full of vision, impression.

This nearly gets in the way of plot development, but he is still a joy to read. View 1 comment. Jul 18, Shane rated it it was ok. I was disappointed in this novel from an obviously very accomplished writer. It read more like a year in the life of the protagonist, Isabel, with a series of incidents, rather than a story that builds towards a climax. Isabel fo I was disappointed in this novel from an obviously very accomplished writer.

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Isabel follows in the path of her brother, undertaking a perilous journey on a flatbed that nearly kills her, partly to be reunited with him, and partly to escape being dependant on her parents who are eking out a living on the farm. Her quest for Isaias takes her into some dangerous situations but the imagined presence of her brother, who seems to be always around her, steers her out of trouble.

The revelation in the end is anti-climactic, but the message, that out perceived greatness is not inherent and only comes from those who confer it upon us, is clear. The other inevitability: the drift from village to city, where the villagers end up in dead-end jobs, and that this cycle is perpetuated with every batch of new entrants, is more than clear too. The writing is beautiful and this redeems the book somewhat, but the conflicts come in a series of little bumps which quickly resolve themselves and do not build upon each other.

I liked the descriptions of village and city and they come across as if the writer spent considerable time in these locales and immersed himself in the life there.


View 2 comments. It took me two times to get all of the way through this book. It was not because it was badly done, or not an interesting story. Unfortunately, I am a moody reader, and the first time, I was just not in the mood to listen after I downloaded it and started listening, and it languished in my iPod until it expired and disappeared from my bookshelf back to library. Then I forgot about it. The first time I downloaded it, I was drawn to the picture on the cover and the title of the book.

That "somethin It took me two times to get all of the way through this book. That "something" was still there and it called to me again the second time I found it in the available books listing on Overdrive. As I started listening, it seemed soooo familiar. The names in the story, the lady's voice that was narrating, but I was not completely sure, until I got to a part in the story that I knew that I had heard before. It had not been a nice thing, and I instantly recalled the moment of horror again. There parts in this book that are hard to accept that things like it really do happen, but I am not naive enough any more not to believe them.

I know that they must be true. I know that they have happened. It makes me sad and angry, but it it does not make them go away. On the surface of the story, this book is about a young girl waiting for her brother to come home from the city. The girl, Isabel, idolizes her older brother, Isaias. The story is told from her point of view from the time she was about four years old, when the story started. I do not know where the story actually takes place. Somewhere that there is sugar cane grown and constant drought and people leaving home and moving to a very large city and back again, when and if possible.

It is a story of hardship, constant hunger, pain, poverty and love. Isabel's love for her brother is the driving factor in everything that happens to her and where she goes and what she does to find him. The story is beautifully written, but dragged at times and felt like it just went on too long. Then, it was over. It was not the ending I expected, but the abrupt stop was very jaring after going on for so long. It was a glimpse into a kind of poverty and powerless existance that I have never read about before and I was awed by the strength and endurance we humans can face up to in our environment, no matter what life throws at us.

As long as there is love, we can go on. It is a haunting story, and scenes still come back to me, weeks after I finished listening to it. The narrator was Kate Reading. Her voice was wonderful and she read beautifully. Jun 21, Jeslyn rated it it was amazing.

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Excellent second outing - I've yet to read anything I wasn't completely engrossed in from this author. Written from the perspective of a young South American girl, Mason crafts a perspective that is believable, poignant, and riveting in carrying the reader through Isabel's odyssey of seeking her brother Isaias, who has left the destitution of their agricultural life for greater promise in the city.

Interestingly, one of the most consistent criticisms this novel received was that the location was Excellent second outing - I've yet to read anything I wasn't completely engrossed in from this author. Interestingly, one of the most consistent criticisms this novel received was that the location was left a mystery to the reader. I don't understand why this was such a sticking point for the disgruntled; in fact, given the poverty and transience of the people of the backlands, it seemed entirely appropriate that the locations were as anonymous as the people.

Mason's writing seems to urge the reader to ponder thoughts, actions, experiences, and perhaps to let go of the finite and specific for a bit. Still one of my favorite modern fiction writers. This was a well written book in many ways, but I enjoyed the first half of it more than the second half, for the story didn't seem to progress much and the book just seem to stop rather than come to a satisfying end. I liked the descriptive writing, and I got a good impression of Isabelle, the central character, and the struggle she went through.

The simple plot allows Mason to sketch a rough geography of the third-world city: the extra-legal hillside shantytowns of the poor immigrants, plagued by gangs and attacked by the police; the boulevards and high-rises that amaze new arrivals from the countryside, provoking condescension from those who arrived a few years earlier; the trash mountains, picked over by the poorest of the poor; and the gated communities of the wealthy, where the poor go to work as servants.

One narrative climax comes in such an apartment complex, where Isabel confronts a rich woman she believes knows something about Isaias. The woman is perhaps only as rich as the average reader, but to Isabel she may as well be Ivana Trump, and her disdain infuriates the normally placid Isabel — the first independent judgment she renders on her inequitable world. The arrival of the poor country bumpkin in the big city and the testing of filial affection against the cruelty of the industrializing economy have been myths of the modern age at least since Dickens.

Mason's version has a more recent ancestor: "Black Orpheus," the bossa nova film that set the Orpheus myth in the favelas above Rio de Janeiro. Many scenes recall the film strikingly, including one in the missing-persons bureau, where towers of dusty files drive home the hopelessness of Isabel's quest. The book errs in failing to update the surroundings; there are no dirty, obsolete PCs here, and one misses the bizarre multicultural fusions that cheap Internet cafes and pirated DVDs are creating in even the poorest societies.

Perhaps Mason intends the setting to be the s — a veiled reference to AIDS makes anything earlier unlikely — but that would rather blunt the book's immediacy. Ultimately, the debt "A Far Country" owes to "Black Orpheus" only testifies to the enduring power of its narrative in third-world life. The fear that animates Isabel's quest is the terror not of poverty but of being lost: stripped away from one's village, one's family, from anything one might call home. Her search for her brother is a struggle to anchor herself against the modern world's chaos.

In this case, however, it is Eurydice who is seeking her lost musician, not the other way around.

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