«Three Women in Beiral» – A book made of words that reach us

The journey “Through the Worlds of Books” begins today

Analita Santos, who is an author and literary mentor, as well as a regular columnist for Sul Informação, makes its debut today, on our pages, in the wanderings of literary criticism. This is the new section that we launched this Saturday and which will be monthly, called «For the Worlds of Books». All articles in this new section will always be available in a nova página, which can be accessed by clicking on the banner in the “For the Worlds of Books” section.


«There was no shortage of people and houses in need of repair on that street. When everything happened, they were already on their last legs: Piedade and the house, languishing in eighty or so barely counted years, without makeup to disguise the wrinkles, nor the root imperfections, nor any of the massacres that time left exposed, waiting for the death like someone waiting in line.”

This is how the first chapter of «Três Mulheres no Beiral», by Susana Piedade, begins, her third fiction book, finalist for the LeYa Prize in 2021. Her debut novel in literature, «As Histórias Que Não Se Contam» , also reached the finals of the LeYa Prize in 2015, leading us to believe that Susana Piedade's passion for writing is a fruitful, long-lasting love.

In this work, the pen is poetic, sensitive and careful when addressing delicate themes such as abandonment in old age, gentrification and family complexities. As Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way», and the family in this story has unhappiness as its godmother.

In the house of Piedade — the home that accompanies the emotions of those who live there, in a unison of material solidarity (“A room is emptied, but not the heart”), with an evident degradation as the story progresses, without escaping the tragic end —, women hold the narrative focus (the title is an indicator of this); the men are gray, except for the irreverent, hollow and dangerous Eduardo, for the worst reasons.

José Maria, Eduardo's father, is another of the male characters, a hesitant, ambiguous man, with an empty inner existence; a fugitive from problems. He loses his wife, his children, and lives as if he didn't live, dragged by life. «Any day I would discover that stop in the confines of Areosa and take that bus to “Sonhos”. Maybe he would meet his parents, his ex-wife, his children there, and they would all go for a walk”.

«Three Women in Beiral» is a novel of formation, generational. It assumes the expression of a literary work by making the emotional leap from the private sphere of the octogenarian Piedade (the matriarch), Madalena (the granddaughter) and Catarina (the great-granddaughter), from the neighbors (Carlota or Agustina), to the social plane of pressure real estate, (literal) abandonment in old age, the role of (bad) caregivers and homes with unacceptable conditions, without falling into easy sentimentality or commonplace.

“Besides, it wouldn't hurt to apply concealer every now and then. It was no worse than killing the canaries one by one with poison mixed with birdseed, because I couldn't bear to wash the filth from the cages, the rain of grain on the stairs and hear that irritating joke all the time. The screeching of the seagulls, the unnerving cooing of the pigeons on the rooftops and the mess they made were enough. If I could, I would exterminate them all. Carlota happened to witness the last massacre. The bird was already dead and the girl was hiding the poison in her coat pocket without taking her eyes off her, while she decided whether to push her down the stairs or not.”

It is the real scenario of the problem of gentrification in the city of Porto, its social and humanitarian implications, which stimulated Susana Piedade and inspired her to generate this fictional narrative, which, starting from real estate speculation and the loss of a home, leads us into this family and generational drama.

As if it were a Greek tragedy, there are characters who do not escape their destiny: they could not have another ending. But, in this well-structured, inspiring novel, with strong poetic language, which surprises and makes us want to read with pencil in hand (more at the beginning, then gives way to the robustness of the narrative), with well-sculpted characters and an unexpected ending (apparently) , fateful, «Maybe houses would die like people», there is room for new beginnings. Because life only has one path, forward, and with this thought: «It's only late when we die. Nobody makes peace with a tombstone».

Here's a Portuguese writer to know. A novel that I recommend.




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