As the great Bossa Nova musician Tom Jobim liked to say, Brazil is not for beginners. This tends to be the case for biographies too: an admiration for the protagonist comes first. But once one has a taste for the flair, language and music of Brazil, the extraordinary tale of the pressure cooker that forged it heaves into view.
Five centuries of pharaonic boldness and brutality meander through this hefty tome. In relating the events that shaped Brazil’s vast and unlikely realm, the authors seek to dispel the ‘fairytale’ myths that continue to distort reality.
Take cachaça, Brazil’s national liquor. The reader may consume it in a genteel setting in a caipirinha cocktail. But learning here about the brutal slavery on the sugar plantations casts it in a less agreeable light.