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Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali

COMING OUT in early June, this fascinating novel by the author of Brick Lane, is set here in Mamarrosa, in the Alentejo region of Portugal, (where Ali bought a house after the success of her first novel). It tells the story of a village, through the lives of the people who live there, and the people who pass through.

Alentejo Blue is the story of a village community, where the same families have co-existed for generations. Cork prices are falling, the region is still healing after the Salazar regime, and the locals don’t quite care to cater for tourists.

Old-age pensioner, João, comes across his old friend and sometime lover, Rui, hanging from a tree, his Communist dreams dashed. For Teresa, a beautiful girl not yet 20, Mamarrosa is a place from which to escape from marriage to a ‘suitable’ man, and see the world. For the dysfunctional Potts family, it is a way of running from trouble and scraping by.

Vasco, a café owner who is losing business to the new internet café down the road, has never recovered from the death of his American wife, and believes that his years away from the village, in the States, make him superior. One English tourist fantasises about making a new life in Mamarrosa, but for her compatriots, a young engaged couple, Mamarrosa is where their dreams fall apart.

At the opening of Alentejo Blue, an old man reflects on his long and troubled life, and anticipates the homecoming of Marco Afonso Rodrigues, the prodigal son of the village, and a symbol of the now fast-changing world. When Marco finally returns, villagers, tourists, and expatriates are brought together, and their jealousies and disappointments inevitably collide.

Monica Ali worked in publishing and design before having children. At home with her first toddler, she began writing short stories and submitting them to online critique groups. She started writing Brick Lane after the death of her grandfather and, when she showed the first few chapters to a friend in publishing, she was offered a two book publishing deal within a week.

Alentejo Blue comes out in the UK in June in hardcover, priced at approximately 26 euros. Customers of the Griffin Bookshop can pre-book their copy of the exclusive, large-format paperback at just 16 euros. This offer will not be available in the UK! Ring 289 393 904 or e-mail [email protected] to reserve your specially priced copy.