In this novella, a rich businessman, Napumoceno da Silva Araujo, has just died, leaving a surprising will; everyone assumed the straitlaced old bachelor led an abstemious life, but it turns out he had his share of sexcapades. The book is set in Cape Verde, an island nation off the west coast of Africa, but – fittingly perhaps, as the islands were first settled by the Portuguese – reads more like a Latin American novel than an African one, with its Portuguese names, single paragraphs that span multiple pages, and obsessive focus on OMG SEX!
The story is told mostly through Napumoceno’s eyes, relating the events of his life as he wrote about them. We also see Maria, his secret illegitimate daughter, as she learns about the man she never knew was her father and befriends the nephew who’d assumed himself to be the heir. There is not any strong plotline to provide an organizing principle for these reminisces. The translation is fluid, though the writing isn’t always as clear as it could be. The characters get some development but never really grabbed me, though there are a couple of good scenes. The writing is not especially visual, but does provide some sense of the society in Cape Verde in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
One particular episode bears mentioning. Maria is the daughter of Napumoceno’s one-time cleaning lady, who one day happens to be wearing a skirt in Napumoceno’s favorite color. Unable to restrain himself, he pounces on and rapes her, despite her resistance. (I couldn’t make this stuff up, y’all.) She’s not happy, but by the next day she is totally over it, and they then have a “consensual” relationship. I have to say, I am having trouble thinking of anything grosser in literature than books by men portraying women who don’t mind being raped.
So, though the opening initially grabbed me, I can’t recommend this one. On to something better, and good riddance to it.