This is the story of Euridice Gusmao, the woman who might have been.
Set in Brazil in the middle of last century, The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is the story of a middle-class housewife who strives to break free from the shackles of society. And fails.
So she strives again. And fails again.
We meet Euridice’s husband, who wants nothing more than to experience the comfort of societal bonds. He wants a neat and tidy house, neat and tidy children and a wife who smiles when he comes home.
One by one we meet Euridice’s entire family – her sister, parents, sister’s husband (and his family) and learn of their stories. Like Euridice, most members of her family try to live a life that’s different to the one they were born to. And they fail.
It’s useful to be reminded that for every story we hear of a person who strives against circumstances and succeeds, there are plenty who didn’t. They tried their best and ultimately had to make do with the hand life dealt to them.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s like looking at an annotated family tree and, over a series of cups of tea, having a particularly gossipy family friend fill you in on the life story of each member. Sometimes in broad brushstrokes, sometimes slowing down the story to paint salacious scenes in vivid, detailed colour.
The writing is not sentimental. Each character becomes the victim of their own quirks under the writer’s pen.
And just when you start to think the whole book is about a whiny housewife, or perhaps you started to think that Euridice did have ‘real’ problems, the writer slips in a little reminder of what the rest of society is experiencing:
Maria was the single mother of three children, who ate food she left in the oven and played with the toys she left out for them, and were old enough to take care of themselves at home, it no longer being necessary to chain them to the bed to make sure they didn’t get into the knife drawer or play with the stove.
But this isn’t the story of Maria das Dores. Maria das Dores only makes occasional appearances, to wash the dishes or make up the beds.