Monica Ali's stunning second book is a collection of stories, set in the Alentejo province of Portugal, linked by characters and a vivid sense of place and time. Teresa, a beautiful young girl from the village, is supposed to marry a suitable man from the same community, but she wants to see the world.
Vasco is a café owner who is losing business to the new Internet café down the road.
The unseemly, dysfunctional, but strangely riveting Pottses are a family of ex-patriots, trying to cobble a life together, living at odds with one another until they run into trouble from the outside.
We also meet several English tourists, including a young couple engaged to be married and confronting each other's weaknesses and idiosyncrasies for the first time, and an older woman imagining a new life while fantasizing about never returning home.
"The simultaneous sense of stasis and great change is Ali's forte, and her characters' perceptions are sharp." (Publishers Weekly)
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shorter would have been better