Overall Rating: LIKED it!⭐️
The Air You Breathe: An August book of the month pick and a worthwhile challenge.
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.
When I try to think of a way to describe The Air You Breathe, the way that feels most right is “worthwhile challenge”. There are so many beautiful elements to this read that will pull you in and captivate you yet it’s length will leave you pacing yourself.
The novel’s nearly 500 pages take you from childhood to twilight with such care and delicate detail that you feel more like you’re reading a memoir than historical fiction. Told from Dores’s point of view, you’re shown ever point of joy, strength, pain, and perseverance experienced in her journey; every raw emotion made to feel so real. I am in awe at the author’s ability to build such a strong and real character. That being said, the level of detail needed to create such an authentic character makes for heavy read.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that The Air You Breathe was part of my August book of the month box – and that’s when I started reading it. It took me a full three months to finish this book. The reason I kept picking it up ended up being the very same reason I kept putting it down. The precise attention to detail made the pace so slow I couldn’t read more than a few chapters at a time. I found myself taking long breaks from reading it, picking up a few other books in between, and even waiting about two weeks to really reflect on the read before writing this post. The end result – a story deserving of the perseverance it took to finish it. The bush I used as background for the book’s photo may no longer have leaves on it but I am proud to have finally been able to move this to the “read” section of my bookshelf.
Have you read The Air You Breathe? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!
Want to pick this one up? You can help support this blog by purchasing The Air You Breathe through my Amazon storefront!