Picks and Pans Review: Alentejo Blue
REVIEWED BY LIZA NELSON
In this indelible follow-up to her acclaimed first novel, Brick Road, Ali creates a mosaic of stories to bring life to Alentejo, an isolated Portuguese village where rumors of development bring the promise, and threat, of change. From an old farmer secretly in love with his friend to a young girl ambivalent about a job offer in London, the villagers reveal complex edges of longing and resentment that contrast with the gentle, poetic prose Ali uses in depicting them. Her language becomes tougher when describing the village's British expats, particularly an alcoholic writer and the misfit family with whom he becomes entangled. Also wandering through are a few bona fide tourists affected by Alentejo in unexpected ways and a returning local celebrity whose homecoming stirs imaginations and emotions into an explosive brew. With switchbacks in style as well as focus, Ali's latest is not an easy read, but it rewards with characters who etch themselves into one's memory.