Posted by: Sally Ingraham | October 28, 2009

OT: Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands – Brazil

Dona Florby Jorge Amado

I really thought this book was never going to end. Which is not to say that I disliked it. Here’s a synopsis that I nabbed from Powell:

It surprises no one that the charming but wayward Vadinho dos Guimaraes–a gambler notorious for never winning—dies during Carnival. His long suffering widow Dona Flor devotes herself to her cooking school and her friends, who urge her to remarry. She is soon drawn to a kind pharmacist who is everything Vadinho was not, and is altogether happy to marry him. But after her wedding she finds herself dreaming about her first husband’s amorous attentions; and one evening Vadinho himself appears by her bed, as lusty as ever, to claim his marital rights.

That’s a fairly straightforward plot line, and an amusing one. Even at roughly 500 pages it should have been a quick, spunky read. Instead the book draaaaged.

The book had many good points. The wealth of characters were lively, and the culture and colors and workings of Bahian society sprung from the pages. The writing was vivid, and the overall plot line was interesting. However, there was just too much…detail. The three main high points of the story – Dona Flor’s first marriage, Dona Flor’s second marriage, and the return of Vadinho – could have been exciting hikes up steep mountains (if you’ll forgive the imagery). Instead it was like walking a long, gradual ridge line, where the peak is always just slightly out of view, and you keep thinking you see it but are repeatedly fooled, and fairly often you can’t get over a boulder or something and you have to turn around and find a different route…etc.

Suffice it to say, at times Amado got a little repetitive, and Dona Flor’s moral and amorous struggles grew tiresome. Fortunately, the views (to continue the mountain image a little longer) along the way made the epic journey mostly worthwhile. I especially liked the descriptions of and recipes for some of the regional foods that Dona Flor was so skilled at preparing, and some of the sub-plots involving friends or the local gossips were entertaining.

I think I would try Amado again, and I definitely want to see the movie that was based on this book. For the moment, though, I am just very grateful that Dona Flor found some kind of peace and that I can bid her farewell!


  1. I wasn’t that impressed w/ my first Amado book (The War of the Saints) but REALLY enjoyed my second (Gabriela, Cloves & Cinnamon). His writing does make books seem longer! lol

  2. Eva – I think I will read Gabriela, Cloves & Cinnamon whenever I next have time for Amado. I’ve heard great things about it, and I’m still kicking myself over not buying the 25 cent copy when I bought Dona Flor… Oh well. 🙂

  3. Haha! While I haven’t read Amado, I can definitely relate to your general scenario here. I’m happy for you that you’re moving on, and that the long hike ended up being worth it in the end. 🙂

  4. I hate when that happens – an author takes a really basic plot and drags it out for hundreds and hundreds of pages. Slobodan Novak’s old, Frankincense and Myrrh was like that too. The entire book is a guy caring for a bedridden old lady who won’t die. It is beautifully written, though.

  5. Emily – Finishing a book does always give me a great sense of accomplishment, so that’s a plus!

    EL-Fay – Haha, that book sounds like it would be right up my ally! I do think that the quality of the writing goes a long way to making a dragging plot line bearable – I’ve read other books where nearly nothing happened that were amazing. 🙂

  6. […] 8. October (Original choice: The Two Deaths of Quincas Wateryell by Jorge Amado – Brazil) Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado – Brazil […]

  7. […] Flor and Her Two Husbands – Bruno Barreto – Brazil – 1976 I read this book last October and enjoyed it overall. A friend of mine had a copy of the movie, and finally got around to loaning […]

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