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Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Brazilian Husband review and author Q&A - Rebecca Powell

You might be aware of a little event that starts today called The Olympic Games. As it's being held in Rio I think it's a great time to share this little gem of a book with you all! But  not only have I got a review I've also had a chance to have a chat with the lovely lady behind the words, author Rebecca Powell and she's stopping by today as well.

When I received an email from the author of The Brazilian Husband asking if I would consider reading it to review, Rebecca Powell said that she thought it would be right up my street and how right she was.

Judith and Edson Summers were married for 15 years but it was an unconventional marriage to say the least. When Edson dies Judith is determined to honour her husbands last wish and take him home back to Brazil, a place she's never been and to a family she's never met. So armed with Edson's ashes and her petulant teenage step-daughter Rosa, Judith heads off into unknown territory.

Having very little information to go on other than snippets of conversations she'd previously had with Edson about his life in Brazil Judith quickly comes to realise that Edson hadn't been honest about his humble upbringing. When she tracks down Ricardo, a good friend of Edson's, who now runs a shelter for young people with the aim of keeping them out of trouble, he's reluctant to get involved and doesn't seem to want to help Judith find Edson's family and he definitely doesn't want to divulge any details about Rosa's real mother.

Judith is determined to contact Edson's family but with the lack of help from Ricardo and her relationship with Rosa becoming more and more fragile as they both struggle to cope after Edson's death, she doesn't know which way to turn. Will she find his family or is she just chasing rainbows?

Although the story is mostly told by Judith we're also given a look at it from the perspectives of Rosa, Ricardo along with some transcripts of recordings made of conversations between a young girl called Luciana and Ricardo's wife, Flavia.

I can't tell you just how much I enjoyed reading this book. The characters are all so well written and believable that I couldn't help fully investing myself in all of them. I was willing Judith along to find the answers to all her questions and to rebuild her relationship with Rosa. The chapters from Rosa's point of view were cleverly sprinkled with facts about Brazil as Rosa moodily read them from her guide book which gave me a real insight into a country I'm ashamed to say I know very little about.

What shone through for me was the authors obvious love and appreciation for Brazil. The descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells were written with such a wonderful clarity, I could have been there with them all drinking cachaca and dancing the samba.

The Brazilian Husband is a truly wonderful story about love, loss, secrets, corruption and so much more and Rebecca Powell is an extremely talented author who, in my opinion, everyone should be talking about. So, if you've just finished your current read please go and check out this magnificent little beauty and enjoy!

As I said at the start of this post I was lucky enough to have a chat with Rebecca so read on to find out more about lady herself.

Rebecca Powell was born in Bristol and has a degree in French and Portuguese from the University of Leeds.  In her early twenties she worked for a year at a women's shelter in the northeast of Brazil, before moving to London, where she continued to work for a number of national charities.  She now lives in the South West of France with her husband and three children.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Powell

Hello Rebecca and welcome to The Haphazardous Hippo
Hi Neats, thank you so much for having me.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in a village near Bristol, the second of four siblings.  We walked down to the local library every week and I still remember the magic of being able to choose any book we liked.  One of the earliest books I remember reading was Roddy the Roadman, about the people on street signs, who come alive at night.  
As an adult I’ve moved around quite a bit, working as a fundraiser for various charities in London; an English teacher in Brazil; an actress in Australia… I now live on a quiet hilltop in the French countryside and love baking (usually with my children). We are currently introducing the French to the joys of homemade fudge.  I’m also trying to teach myself the guitar so I can teach my daughter.  I figure if I’m at least one lesson ahead of her, I’ll be okay… as the young girl Luciana says in my book “No-one knows how to do things until they do them.”  The same goes for writing a book!

How would you describe/sell The Brazilian Husband to someone who hasn’t read it?
It’s the story of a young British widow, who travels to Brazil to take her husband’s ashes home.  But when she arrives, she discovers her husband was not exactly the person he claimed to be.  The story is told from the perspective of four very different characters: a British widow, her teenage step-daughter, a human rights lawyer and a street girl named Luciana.

When did you first realise that you wanted to write a book?
I started writing snippets of short stories on my return from Brazil, but it wasn’t until after the birth of my first child, whilst working as an actress in Australia, and with less time than ever before, that I started writing in earnest.  

I read that you spent a year working at a women’s shelter in Brazil, how did that come about?
When I was about fourteen, we learnt about Brazilian street children in Geography.  From then on, I was determined I was going to go to Brazil and work with street children.  This drove me to do a degree in French and Portuguese at the University of Leeds, because as part of their programme, I got to spend a year in Brazil.  On arrival I went straight to the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights and volunteered.  That later led to volunteering at a shelter for marginalised women and girls.  

In your novel, Judith travels to Brazil with her step-daughter Rosa and finds the whole experience quite daunting. Did you draw on your own experiences when writing this?
To a certain extent, yes, of course.  However, I was not a thirty-eight year-old widow – I was a naïve, driven twenty-one year old, whose wonder and excitement far out-weighed any trepidation she felt.  Much of the detail in the book is drawn from my own experiences though – a mix of all the people and places I got to know, and the stories I heard, from the Capoeira dancers, the street vendors and the shelter, to the buses, the beaches and the World Cup fever, which was sweeping the nation at the time.

Can you describe how your novel took shape?
On my return from Brazil I wanted to tell everyone about the people I’d met, the things I’d seen.  So I started writing.  Then life got in the way.  I started working for various charities in London and that took up all my time.  I rediscovered my writing many years later and realised I still wanted to tell the story.  I’d never written a book.  I sent out early drafts to agents when it really wasn’t ready.  But I learnt from that.  I put it away.  I wrote another book, to practice, then tucked that away in a drawer and came back to my ‘Brazil book’.  I’m lucky to have a wonderful group of girlfriends, who were invaluable in the editing process.  I hadn’t told anyone I was writing until then, as I was a bit embarrassed about it – what would happen if I tried and failed?  Then everyone would know!  But I bit the bullet and asked for feedback – and they were brilliant, picking up on things I knew weren’t quite right, but hoped no-one else would notice.  That taught me a great deal.  When I heard the Olympics were in Rio this year, I knew it was time to publish.  Once I had that deadline, everything just fell in to place.

Do you have a special time for writing or do you just grab time where you can?
I think part of the delay in writing this book came from the belief that there would come a time in my life when I would have time to sit down and write a novel.   Once I realised that this was never going to happen (and to be honest, if it did happen, then the pressure would probably become so great that I’d end up writing nothing!) I started writing scenes in notebooks and pulling together my earlier writing.  My daughter was great.  She told me ‘Mum, just write 100 words a day.  You’ll have a novel in the end.”  And she was right!

Both of your brothers (Gareth L Powell and Huw Powell) are novelists. Are you all supportive of each other’s work and is there any sibling rivalry?
We’re all very close, even though I live in France and they live in the UK.  I read my brothers’ books in draft form and give feedback, and whenever we get together we just can’t stop talking about books and writing!  There really is no rivalry at all.  I suppose it helps that we are all in different genres – Gareth is an award-winning science fiction author, most famous for his Ack-Ack Macaque series, and Huw is a Middle Grade writer, author of the hugely popular Spacejackers series.  Between us we pretty much have a book for everyone!

Do you have a favourite author?
This changes constantly, but right now it’s Haruki Murakami.  I read ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ as I’m a writer and a (leisurely) runner, and now I’m reading Norwegian Wood.  I also admire Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Khaled Hosseini for their courageous stories and beautiful use of language.

What genre of books do you enjoy?
I love stories that wont allow themselves to be limited by genre, such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Chocolat, by Joanne Harris.  I like books that leave me feeling I have learnt something; felt something; been taken on an extraordinary journey.  This is what I was aiming for as I wrote The Brazilian Husband.
Is there a book you’d like to have written and why?
The Outsiders.  Because of the voice.  It was one of the first books that really got to me.

Are you currently working on anything new that you can tell us about?
Yes, and I’m very excited about it!  It’s the story of three women and how their choices affect the lives of the others.  I can’t say anything more than that at the moment, other than I’m thoroughly enjoying immersing myself in the characters and researching their lives.  Watch this space…!

Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?
Thank you so much for reading The Brazilian Husband.  It’s a story so very close to my heart and one I have waited so long to tell.  I’d love to hear from you and find out what you think – leave a comment, review or tweet a photo of you reading #TheBrazilianHusband.  As a writer I spend so much time alone in my own head, it’s wonderful to hear from readers who’ve enjoyed being immersed in the world I’ve created.  That really makes my day!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and joining me on my blog today.
Thank you so much for having me.  It’s been a real pleasure.  And congratulations on the great blog!

You can find out more about Rebecca on her website here and you can follow her on Twitter @BeccaPowellUK 

The Brazilian Wife is available to buy now on Amazon UK and Amazon US and please do get in touch with Rebecca and let her know your thoughts if you read it. . . . .and come back and let me know too, well, because I'll be curious too!

With kind thanks to author Rebecca Powell for the review copy.


  1. Sounds like a really great read!

    1. Thanks for your comment Kate. I loved every page and I would highly recommend it 😉