Born in a São Paulo shantytown, Ludo undergoes a remarkable transformation from one side of the citys impermeable social divide to the other. Rescued and raised by a plutocrat, Zeno Generoso, Ludo finds himself entrenched in the gated, guarded community of the super-rich.
Now twenty-seven, Ludo works for a vacuous communications company that markets unwanted, unaffordable products aimed at the very underclass into which he was born and from which he escaped. To make matters more complicated, he has developed an obsessive, adulterous love for his adoptive sister, whose husband is his only friend.
Ludos involvement in an ill-conceived supermarket launch aimed at the favelas desperately poor population risks embroiling him in a world of violence and brutality. By turns darkly humorous and poignant, James Scudamores Booker Prize-nominated novel is a highly original, surprising take on the rags-to-riches story.
Its early, not yet seven a.m., and once again Im waking up
beside my adoptive sister.
This has got to stop. Shes a married woman.
The air-conditioning is on high, and my head feels like its immersed in freezing water, even though Melissas body is cleaving to mine wherever it can, making me hot and clammy beneath the covers. I sit up, and reach for the remote control that operates the blinds. They track smoothly upwards and the city, bile yellow, pours in from every direction.
Melissas penthouse is at the head of a long avenue that bisects the Garden District straight through to the smogcloaked towers of downtown. From up here you look down on the treetops and the green parakeets that flit between them. At night gridlocked traffic lights up the avenue in glittering ribbons of red and white. During big football matches, when a goal is scored, the fireworks burst silently beneath you.
I stretch and lie back to ...
Scudamore is unafraid of exploring difficult subjects--the patronizing nature of so-called philanthropy, the discomfort of not belonging, the independence that charity takes away, the uncertainty of how to help another person without being insulting, who owes what to whom--and his writing is at its strongest when he offers no solutions to these social conflicts. Instead, he freely examines the raw feelings of shame, stifled anger, and apathy that plague his characters. Scudamore respects the complexities of the social dynamics and does not try to oversimplify these relationships...
(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
Full Review (1250 words).
In his novel Heliopolis, James Scudamore candidly describes the favelas of Brazil as poor shantytown communities; "from a distance, you can't imagine anyone living in such a place: the area has the chaotic texture of a landfill site, a rubbish dump dense thickets of unofficial power lines; walls and roofs of remaindered breeze-block and stolen brick and found-iron sheeting and repurposed doors; structures that should never work but somehow do because they must". His descriptions are by no means exaggerated. Favelas are often populated by people who illegally occupy lands on the outskirts of Brazil's larger cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Homes are made from scrap materials and ...
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