Book Review: The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Book: The Air You Breathe
Author: Frances de Pontes Peebles
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride–and each woman’s fear that she would be nothing without the other. 

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music. 

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories. 

Traveling from Brazil’s inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship–its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses–and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

My Rating: 5 STARS

My Review:

The Air You Breathe is a beautifully written book set in 1930s Brazil and is about a deep complex friendship and I loved it, it’s one of those books that are so emotionally poignant that the story just stays with you.

The Air You Breathe is about Dores and Graça, two friends from childhood who grew up together and formed such a deep friendship despite coming from different backgrounds.  Dores is an orphan working in the kitchen of Graças household.  Graça is the opposite, spoiled and tended to.  This story had such an unlikely tale of friendship and I loved that.  And I also loved how flawed the friendship of Dores and Graça was as well, it wasn’t always perfect and that made their bond with each other have more depth to it.

We read from Dores’ point of view and the book is her telling her story so we experience her whole life within these pages.  At the beginning Dores is an old woman reflecting on her life and she tells us that Graça is dead and has been for a long time so from the very beginning you just know this book is going to be an emotional rollarcoaster.

We see Dores as a young child growing up, meeting Graça, developing this intense friendship with her, them both finding their love for music and breaking free from their own societal confines to pursue the life they both want in the music industry.

The writing is so beautiful, it really makes your heart ache for the characters especially the present day parts where you get a look at how important on retrospect these moments in Dores’ life were for her.

I also loved the overall feeling and atmosphere that surrounded the setting of this book.  I felt totally transported by the way the author described the places, music and time of the book.  I loved reading about the cultural aspects and the talk of samba music.

Overall I loved this book, it’s one of my favourite books of the year and I think it’s an incredibly beautiful book about meaningful friendship.  Although I don’t usually like comparing books I do feel that this book is a mix of both The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and The Six but it also has its own great story and characters.  

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