• Deborah MB

Brazilian saga in 'Liberty Farm'

Izai Amorim’s Liberty Farm: A Family Portrait, is a mirror of family dynamics, historical change, and the socioeconomic (r)evolution which gripped Brazil between 1898 and 1989. It is a grand endeavour, ambitious like the Almeida family fortunes. At the heart of all great events, Amorim seems to tell us, stands passion – selfish, blind, and destructive – disguised as love: Ezra’s love for the dead Nelson, for the farm, for the Sertão da Resaca; Esra Duarte’s love for recognition, for money; even Ezra Neto’s love for adventure.

‘Liberty Farm’ is founded as the Romantic dream of man in nature (by the poor yet educated Juliano), only to quickly succumb to the power of money and commerce (of the rich although illiterate Ezra). A line is drawn that will tear the Almeida family apart from that point forward, between the ones wanting to leave, and those wanting to stay; the ones blinded by the wish to be loved by their father, and the resentment of those aware such love is unattainable; the ones driven by emotion, and the ones driven by greed. Even as the generations come and go, their interactions, as well as their responses to the outside influences of politics, medicine, market shifts, and so forth, all are invariably fed by this internalised struggle. Concomitantly, the reader witnesses the changes affecting Brazil, and by extension the world, through the lens of these concentric dichotomies.

Who would enjoy this

As a fictionalised narrative based on true events (or so it claims), and with its extensive inclusion of historical data, Liberty Farm is a good choice for those who love historical sagas. I have certainly learned a lot about Brazil, without feeling overwhelmed by an onslaught of information.

Additionally, this is recommended for those who like emotional drama. In many ways, the intricacies of the tale reminds me of those in soap operas. It is an interesting insight into Brazilian (as much as one can extrapolate from a fictional representation) mores and beliefs, along with their consequences. Readers who enjoy this kind of literature will definitely have a good experience with this volume so long they don’t expect the characters to be likable. Like in life, no-one is free of sin – pride, envy, greed, sloth, lust, gluttony and wrath are all present, in all of the Almeidas, to some measure. And Ezra’s self-important, God-like attitude over his family shines above all.

Who should give this a pass

As in most cases, if the reader does not feel tempted by the section above, they will probably not enjoy this book. Despite its borrowing from the novela-verdade (true-life soap opera) genre popular on television, Liberty Farm is much more than mere prurient entertainment. Thus, I wouldn’t suggest it for light reading.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t suggest it for readers who want clear-cut history or have strong opinions on most modern concerns. The author’s views on certain subjects, such as ecology, gender, capitalism, or religiosity, come through often enough to make some of that information slightly suspect. As a result, it may trigger certain groups, who would better pick up other tomes instead.

Conclusions and suggestions

This is a far-reaching, self-managed project by the author, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it. The story is well built, and the use of the historical snippets add to, rather than distract from it. It is obvious that this has long been a labour of love, with great attention to detail. Amorim has also created a story dynamic enough, yet focused enough, to hold the readers’ interest, despite the abundance of people and events.

That said, the story could do with some trimming, as there is a marked imbalance in the presence of certain characters, and that of their siblings, for example. Such tilt gives the impression that the author had much more to tell, but chose to cut the younger siblings’ stories short to limit length to one tome. This, in principle, is a very good idea. However, they should have either been edited completely out, or their follow-up be hinted at in possible subsequent volumes. These characters, such as Marcos or Nelson Dois, have too much detail in their story to blend into the background.

Again, this is an excellent effort by Izai Amorim. Liberty Farm delivers a good story, strong characters, as well as information to tickle the mind. I would expect good things in future, while hoping he tightens his narrative slightly more. To do so, I suggest:

· Drop a character which does not add enough to the story, even if it is interesting in itself. It can always be recycled in a different work.

· Give redeeming qualities to the main characters as they develop. There has to be some empathy with them, not only with the supporting ones, as the story progresses.

· As extension to the first point, just because there is some interesting detail that popped up while dreaming up the story, it doesn’t need to be included. Prioritise.

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