The definition of the word “saudade” is a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament, or “the love that remains” after someone is gone. It’s the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, wellbeing, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again.
I don’t think I have ever come across such an apt title. This novel takes place in Angola in the 1960s when it is still under Portuguese control. The young narrator, Maria-Cristina is living in Angola, but her parents were born in Goa, so she has felt displaced, an outsider all her young life. She pines, yearns for a homeland she has never seen.
Because of her parent’s heritage, they were a sort of aristocratic class in Goa tied with the Portuguese, when Angola becomes independent and throws off Portuguese hegemony, Maria-Cristina must leave or be exiled.
The feeling of saudade is not just experienced by Maria, her boyfriend who comes from Portugal, longs to return. Her mother, lives in the past, missing Goa. That is why I said the title is so apt. It’s brilliant. Throughout this whole short novel, all the characters are experiencing the sense of saudade. Very clever.
What also makes this even more interesting is that we experience the whole story through the eyes of a growing child. As Maria grows older, she starts to realise the predicament her family is in as the inevitability of Angola’s independence looms.
That brings me to the characters, and they are well written as well. Especially Maria and the mother who take the lion’s share of the workload.
You could not call this a happy novel, in fact a feeling of melancholy pervades pretty much every page, but it is beautifully written. The prose is at times poetic.
Suneeta Peres Da Costa has packed so much into this wonderful little novel. At first, I found myself wishing it was a little longer, but on a second reading I think she has got it spot on.
The way everything ties in with the title, the narrative and the interesting time period in which it takes place, the beautiful writing, they all come together to form a terrific little novel. 4 Stars!
Suneeta Peres da Costa is an award-winning Australian author and playwright, best known for her tragicomic novel, Homework, about a dysfunctional Goan migrant family set in suburban Sydney. Peres da Costa was twenty-three years-old when the novel was published internationally. Her 2018 novel on the subject of lostness, a feeling of not having a place in the world, Saudade, follows Maria, a young girl from a Goan immigrant family, growing up in a political hierarchy of racism and colonialism in Portuguese Angola.
There is a terrific, interesting article/interview with Suneeta Peres da Costa here - http://users.tpg.com.au/waldrenm/costa.html