MARLENE AND SOFIA by Pedro Barrento

marlene-and-sofiaThe author himself tells us: 

The initial draft was written in Portuguese but the book was developed and fine tuned in English and parts of it were written directly in English. There isn’t even a Portuguese version at the moment. I must go back to the Portuguese draft and update it so that it becomes the same as the final English version. So I guess this is an English book although written by a Portuguese author.

I love this, because it has the same layers and convolutions as the book itself.

Any writer, in Portugal in a sort of alternate modern time,  has to apply to the Guild for a genre and basic outline of a book.  The writer cannot just write any old thing, because the Guild wants to ensure that the book is published, read, and is a hit.

Our writer is assigned a romance, but set in the slums along the bank of a river.   He begins writing, but veers off course, submits his work, and several new chapters which he did not write are returned with an outline for the following chapters, and he is chastised for not sticking to the script.  But again, he writes his own version, adding additional chapters and submits it.

His own version is about two women, friends, from different strata in the society.  Sofia is the daughter of a Marxist revolutionary in his younger days.  He owns a small piece of worn out land, and gives it to Sofia on which to construct  greenhouses, with subsidies and loans from the government, and a great deal of help from a wealthy lover.

Marlene is a gal of the streets, a ‘working girl’, who also works part time for Sofia.  They become friends, and their fates intertwine.

Theirs is a great story, a real page turner, and we start to forget that it is a story within a story, the megastory being the writer who is on the hot seat for writing unauthorized story lines.   It turns out that the president of the Guild, who is the only person not permitted to write, is feeding him those mystery chapters, hoping he will write her book and it can get published using his name.  Meanwhile, a secretary at the guild is doing her best to help our writer.  Which becomes yet another love story.

Oh, it is all so clever!  I loved it.  It is a mishmash of love stories, all interwoven, and you will totally enjoy it, because all the world  loves a lover, right?



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