Sunday, August 24, 2008


My first memory of Gabriela, Cravo e Canela was as a child. During one of my summer visits to Portugal, I saw relatives enthralled watching this "novela", Gabriela. But what sparked my curiosity was the setting of this soap opera, somewhere that looked magical and scary all at the same time. And the way they talked. It was fascinating. And the music...

Later on, when I figured out that it was based on a book, I begged my mother to let me read it, and she didn't consider it appropriate for my age, I let it go, but it's been in my mind ever since. I've had several opportunities to read this book, but it wasn't until I was searching for another Jorge Amado book, that I decided this time that I would read it.

Here's the blurb of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado:

Ilhéus in 1925 is a booming town with a record cacao crop and aspirations for progress, but the traditional ways prevail. When Colonel Mendonça discovers his wife in bed with a lover, he shoots and kills them both. Political contests, too, can be settled by gunshot...

No one imagines that a bedraggled migrant worker who turns up in town–least of all Gabriela herself–will be the agent of change. Nacib Saad has just lost the cook at his popular café and in desperation hires Gabriela. To his surprise she turns out to be a great beauty as well as a wonderful cook and an enchanting boon to his business. But what would people say if Nacib were to marry her?

Lusty, satirical and full of intrigue, Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is a vastly entertaining panorama of small town Brazilian life.

It took me a while to really get into the story, but never did I feel that I wanted stop reading, I knew (and expected) it would pick up, and when it did I was blown away.

This book has two main stories: Nacib and Gabriela's love story, and Mundinho Falcao political aspirations in Ilhéus.

Nacib is suprised that Gabriela loves him, and she is happy that way their affair is going. She cooks for him, helps him in the cafe, takes care of him and loves him. He on the other hand is afraid to lose her, always freightened that one of the Colonel's will take her away. Their relationship changes when Nacib slowly changes Gabriela. He expects her to change the way she has always, and slowly you see her sad and drifting aways.

In Mundinho's case he desperately wants to help the people of this town. He came to Ilhéus to find himself, to grow into the man that his family expected him to be and also to run away from a love affair that would destroy his family. Ilhéus to him, was the place that he can succeed, but he has the old fashion Colonels to deal with, and they have no qualms is dealing they way they've always have: with fists and guns.

What I enjoyed most in this story was the setting. Ilhéus in the book was as magical to me as it was when I was a child watching the show. I fell in with its people: the crusty old Colonel Ramiro Bastos that didn't want his town to change; his playboy son, Tonico; Dona Arminda, and her obsession with spirits; Malvina, a young girl who didn't want to end up married and miserable; and so many others.

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado (4.5/5) Historical Fiction; Published: Livraria Martins Editora 1958 - Brazil; Published: Alfred A. Knopf 1962; Translated from the Portuguese by James L. Taylor and William L. Grossman; 100 + Reading Challenge (49); Orbis Terrarum Challenge (3); Library book; Added to shopping list;


Ana O. said...

You should read Captains of the Sand, one of my favourites by Jorge Amado.

Leya said...

Ana O, thanks for stopping by! I tried reading The War of the Saints, but couldn't get into it. I've added Captains of the Sandon my check list.


Ana O. said...

Two other novels that were made into very popular "novelas" were "Tieta" and "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands", both similar to Gabriela. Those I have yet to read but I saw the "novelas" at the time!

Leya said...

Ana O, they both sound familiar. :D
A couple more titles to add to my growing list.