Well! That was an experience I must say. When I picked up this book I had no idea what I was getting into. One of my treasured reads from this fine Brazilian author is an allegorical, fairytale feeling book The Alchemist. So while expecting something similar in the genre it was a shock to read this book. Even though it was not what I expected, it transpired that this book could not leave my hand today until it was finished, even though it was unnerving and not my usual reading material.
If I were to put this book in a genre I would say erotic odyssey. There are graphic scenes of sex and even some masochistic content but basically it is a story of Maria on a long, confusing, and often treacherous journey to find herself and the meaning of true love.
Maria is virginal and very beautiful as a young girl in a small town in Brazil. When love disappoints her she becomes totally convinced that love only leads to heartache and decides to forge a life without it. Not without sex though because she very much enjoys all the sensual pleasures.
As a young, unhappy, and restless naive girl she is duped into going to Switzerland to hopefully become a famous dancer but in inadvertently becomes a skilled and successful prostitute. She charges 1000 Francs (about $1049) for the eleven minutes that it takes a man to finish his “business.”
Her odyssey finally finds her grappling with her feelings when she has a relationship that seems genuine. The handsome young painter may mean more to her than the usual eleven-minute-man. So perhaps she will be able to have a relationship that is loving and includes sex?
It's not that it was so shocking, for in library censorship classes I read much more explicit, but most books considered to be literary fiction usually do not have so much graphic content.
Even though the first line of the story is, “Once upon a time...” this is no allegory or fairytale and I certainly won't be handing it to all my friends for an easy escape read. But I am glad I read it and will try harder not to pigeonhole the authors I read expecting them to be consistent with their writing style