Synopses & Reviews
On the island of Madeira in 1429, a peasant girl of fifteen meets a boya Jewish outsideroff a ship. Esperança is restless, trapped in a world she finds too narrow. Emmanuel teaches her to read. A desire for terra incognita draws them together, but they know they must part when the ship sails. From that first meeting and parting, others follow.
Portugal, with its golden light, lemon groves, and vineyards, is the setting for a love story renewed over six centuries. Emmanuel is in turn a sailor, an apprentice in a workshop producing the first printed pages in Portugal (an edition of the Pentateuch), a bookseller, and a musician. Esperança appears first as a peasant girl, then as a spoiled daughter of Faros privileged class, a bookish woman determined to solve a string of murders, and a child of Portuguese immigrants in London.
Each time they meet there is a spark of recognition, a sweet conversation resumed with a depth of knowledge the lovers cannot explain. Each time, too, their lives are hounded by a history of expulsion, persecution, and displacement. With the power of a symphony in which movements repeat and enlarge their themes, building to a turmoil of confusion, Lee Langley reinvigorates the love story in four stories of destiny, identity, and history.
"A story told with true imagination." Spectator (One of the Best Books of the Year)
"Tackles several great themes while having at its core a simple love story....Haunting, magical." Daily Mail
"[Ambitious and deeply romantic....Incorporating the backdrop of Portugal's maritime empire, the Spanish Expulsion of the Jews, and the sadness, or saudade, of Portuguese immigrants in London, Langley's richly atmospheric tale also offers surprisingly dramatic twists and turns." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"Langley's previous novel, Persistent Rumours, won a Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and this lyrical and resonant work shares the same assured and vibrant style." Publishers Weekly
A love affair reoccurs across six centuries in this novel set in Portugal. The story begins in 1429 on Madeira, an island consumed by a fire that has blazed for seven years. A young peasant girl, Esperanca, meets Emanuel, a Jewish boy on shore from a Portuguese sailing ship. The courtship blossoms when he teaches her to read, but they know they must separate when the ship leaves. From that first meeting and parting others flow across the centuries: each life is short and the couple faces peril, tenderness, and horror. What survives is love, the ache of longing, the awareness of something lost, the immensity of distance, and the fragility of human bonds.
Life was tough in England after the Second World War - at least it was for those who were not fabulously wealthy or part of the tiny group of British film and theatre stars. Little wonder then that Elsie Lancaster, the granddaughter of a theatrical landlady, thinks only of trying to become one of that shining constellation. Oliver Plunkett shares the same ambition. For his best friend, the kooky Coco Hampton, theatre is all about costume. It is part of the inevitable flow of theatrical life that they are to become emotionally entangled with one another.
About the Author
Lee Langley, the author of several novels, won the Writers Guild Best Fiction Award and a Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Novel for Persistent Rumours (Milkweed, 1994). Her novels twice have been shortlisted for the Hawthornden Prize in Britain. Born in Calcutta, India, of Scottish parents, Langley now lives in England, where she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and active in P.E.N., the international writers organization.