Author: Lucio Cardoso
Genre: Literary Fiction
Chronicle of The Murdered House tells the tale of the Meneses’ family who’s reputation and honor are slowly destroyed by the marriage of the youngest son, Valdo and the dangerous and beautiful Nina.
To me, books are like food. A lot of books are like a pizza or a doughnut. They don’t need a lot of focus, you can take them anywhere and finish them in a snap. Some books, however, are like a seven-course meal, that need to be savored, analyzed, and digested to be fully comprehended.
Chronicle of the Murdered House is one of those seven-course books.
For some reason, Goodreads has it listed that the book is 500 pages. It’s actually 592. Besides being long, the book is also literary as it could possibly be. The books is a Portuguese to English translation of a 20th-century Brazilian novel and it looks like literary fiction is the same no matter what country it’s from. Wordy, excessively descriptive, and incredibly stuffy people to revolve around.
The book was well written, I won’t dispute that at all. Like most literary novels, it had the kind of prose that made me imagine everything playing out with a soft gossamer light shining on the scene. That’s pretty much why it gets the three stars I’ve given it. Everything else was the problem.
The story was told through diary entries from people who were central characters to the plot. The entries belong to: Valdo Meneses, his wife Nina, Ana Meneses, his sister in law, Temetrio Meneses, his brother, Betty the maid, the doctor, the priest, Andre, Valdo and Nina’s son, the pharmacist (who is not the same as the doctor, by the way), and Nina’s friend from Rio, the colonel. From me just listing the characters out, it’s a lot of people to keep track of and differentiate.
I think the book stretched itself too thin, giving the POV of each one of these characters. Dramatic stories like this usually have quite a bit of people intricately being batshit all at once, I know, but this was too much. The diary entries were too similar, also. If the chapters didn’t title themselves after whoever was writing the entry or letter I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.
All of the characters in this book are not people I would’ve cared to read about in hindsight. Their entire dramatic downfall was not as dramatic as it could have been, but only because the big “secret/scandal” didn’t make enough of an impact to warrant all of the flowery writing and melodramatic musing I had to read through.
I didn’t get any closure from the ending of the book. In fact, I wish Cardoso had decided to scrap the “incest” plot point and use the more scandalous secret that Ana kept as what the story circled upon. I think Cardoso thought that death was a good enough conclusion/consequence but that bothers me. It feels like a cop out.
All in all, I’m not upset that this is the first piece of Brazilian literature that I’m getting my hands on, but I’m questioning if the work I put into figuring out and comprehending the book was worth it. If you’re into the writing part of reading, get this book. If plot ranks a little higher in your world, skip it. The book contains graphic implications of incest so if you’re aren’t comfortable with that, steer clear of this.