Thursday, 11 August 2016

Chalk Dust Stories by Pedro Freire Costa – Book review

Note: I received a complementary e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I thank the author for presenting me with the opportunity.

Written originally in Portuguese, Chalk Dust Stories is a collection of short stories which includes the short story Chalk Dust. The author being Portuguese, the stories are set in Portugal, across various timelines. Most of the short stories were social stories with a macabre setting and sometimes, a melancholic ending. The stories were fairly diverse; one involving an 84 year old spinster woman about whom her sisters who have lived with her all along know very little; a bull always loyal to his master that it never unleashes its true nature, even in the bull fighting arena; the life of a boy who lost his father when he was fourteen and how he comes up in life; and also a humorous story where a man bets his dead mother in law, loses the bet and the counterparties try to dig up her coffin (these are snippets only of a few stories, not all). 

The stories were very well narrated; be it the characters built or the setting; I thoroughly enjoyed visualising the setting. The characters were built very well and despite being short stories, their nature was brought out very well that there were stages where you were able to predict how a character would react to a future situation. Of all the stories, my personal favourite was Chalk Dust where a boy, orphaned at fourteen, finds a guardian angel in his father’s lover and it went across timelines; bringing out aspects of Portugal both during Salazar’s regime and after and as a history enthusiast, I loved the way in which the author brought out a glimpse on life during the dictatorial regime. Other aspects of 20th Century history touched upon in the book included the war’s Portugal fought in Africa on Salazar’s whim to retain all the colonies. Apart from the touch of history, what I genuinely liked about the stories were short but still, was able to communicate a lot to the reader.

The only downside I found in the book was the fact that some of the stories ended quite abruptly, the book totally came to 80 pages but I would have preferred it if the author had elaborated a little more, even if it meant taking the book to around 120 pages (especially in stories such as Marilia’s Christmas or Starry Night).

I have always wanted to make my reading more diverse as I believe reading books is an easy way to know about the world around you and this book presented me an excellent opportunity; the first book I read with stories entirely set in Portugal and to say the least, I am looking forward to more. To conclude my review, I award the book a seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

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