The Invisible Mountain

The Invisible Mountain

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Overview

With her distinctive storytelling abilities and indelibly drawn characters, Carolina De Robertis illuminates a dark moment in contemporary Latin America. Intimate with the region, she crafts an emotionally pitch-perfect tale of a young woman who makes a horrifying—but ultimately liberating—discovery about her origins.

Perla Correa grew up a privileged only child in Buenos Aires with a polished, aloof mother and a straitlaced naval officer father, whose profession she learned early on not to disclose in a country still reeling from the abuses perpetrated by the deposed military dictatorship. Although Perla understands that her parents were on the wrong side of the conflict, her love for her papá is unconditional. But when she is startled by an uninvited visitor, she begins a journey that will force her to confront the unease she has long suppressed and make a wrenching decision about who she is and who she will become.

This rich human drama is based on the truth of thirty thousand disappeared Argentinean citizens and five hundred babies who were born in clandestine detention centers, torn from their mothers, and secretly given up for adoption. In the years that followed this dark time, some of these children have discovered the identities of their true families, and they continue to do so today. Perla brings history to life as only fiction can, in an intimate, unforgettable portrait of one young woman’s explosive search for truth. De Robertis unfolds a gripping and historically resonant tale with keen-eyed compassion, luminous prose, and a startling vision of the incomparable power of love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739384466
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/25/2009
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 6.02(h) x 1.65(d)

About the Author

CAROLINA DE ROBERTIS was raised in England, Switzerland, and California by Uruguayan parents. Her debut novel, The Invisible Mountain, was an international best seller that was translated into fifteen languages; it was an O, The Oprah Magazine 2009 Terrific Read, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and was the recipient of Italy’s Rhegium Julii Prize. She is the recipient of a 2012 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her fiction and literary translations have appeared in Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among other publications. She lives in Oakland, California.
 
www.carolinaderobertis.com

Read an Excerpt

Pajarita
 
Montevideo, Uruguay, 1924: Pajarita grew up in the country and first arrived in the city as a seventeen-year-old bride. Now, her husband has not been home for days, leaving her alone with three small children and a house that has run out of food. Her friend Coco, the butcher's wife, has come over to visit.

"First of all," Coco said, pushing a hefty package into Pajarita's hands, "you're taking this meat. I don't care what you say. I know your husband's gone—the desgraciado." She sat her ample body down at Pajarita's table. Pajarita stared at the gift.
   
"I have no way to thank you."
   
Coco continued as if she hadn't heard. "Secondly: your plants. They're strong. You should sell them."
   
"Sell?"
   
"To women in the barrio. You can start in the store, behind the  counter with me. Look, once word spreads about your cures, better than  a doctor and cheaper too, you'll be putting food in those boys' bellies." It had never occurred to her, but she couldn't think of a reason not to try. She took her children and a basket of leaves and roots and barks to the butcher shop. The boys resumed an epic pretend game of gauchos-in-the-campo, riding imaginary horses among the chunks of flesh that hung from the ceiling. In one corner of the room, between the chopping block and meat hooks, Pajarita arranged two small wooden stools and sat down on one. Ignazio, she thought, I want to kill you, to kiss you, to carve you like a flank; just wait and see how I'm going to live without you by my side.
   
Coco served as a living advertisement. Women began to come. Some of them just needed to be heard; they told sprawling, unkempt tales of  death in the family, brutal mothers-in-law, financial pressures, wayward  husbands, violent husbands, boring husbands, loneliness, crises of faith,  visions of Mary, visions of Satan, sexual frigidity, sexual temptation,  recurring dreams, fantasies involving saddles or bullwhips or hot coals.  She offered them teas for comfort, luck, or protection. Other customers  came with physical conditions—pain in their bones, a stitch in their  side, numbness in hips, ears that rang, forgetfulness, sore knees, sore  backs, sore hearts, sore feet, cut fingers, quivering fingers, wandering fingers, burns, headaches, indigestion, excessive female bleeding, a pregnancy that wouldn't come, a pregnancy that had to end, cracked bones, cracked skin, rashes no doctor could diagnose, aches no doctor could cure. There were housewives, maids, sore-handed seamstresses, sweaty-handed adulteresses, great-grandmothers swaying with canes, young girls swooning with love. Pajarita listened to them all. She sat still as an owl as she listened. Then she handed them a small package and explained what to do with its contents. Word spread. Women came to see her from all corners of the city. She could barely keep up with harvesting from cracks in the sidewalk, nearby parks, and the pots in her own house. To Coco's delight, the seekers often picked up their daily beef along with their cures. Pajarita set no price. Some gave her pesos, others fruit, a basket of bread, a ball or two of handspun wool. Anonymous gifts appeared on the Firielli doorstep—baskets of apples, jars of yerba mate,handmade clothes for the children. They had enough.
   
She had developed a peculiar sort of fame. Her name was whispered through the kitchens and vegetable stands of Montevideo. Pajarita, she cured me, you should go see her too. And when I almost. You saw me then. If it hadn't been for her. Strange, she thought, that all of this should grow from something as familiar as plants, such ordinary things, opening new worlds, drawing the souls and stories of this city to her doorstep, unveiling a startling thing inside her: a reach, a scope, adventures with no road map, forays into the inner realms of strangers where she roved the darkness in search of something that bucked and flashed and disappeared, slippery, evasive, untamable.
   
One sweltering afternoon, as a hunchbacked woman who smelled of garlic confessed her infatuation with the new priest, Pajarita felt something stir inside her body. Her mind reached in to feel. She was pregnant. A girl. She filled with the memory of conception, that final night, the clawing, Ignazio's torn and hungry skin. And he was gone. She almost imploded from the sadness.


Eva

 
Montevideo, Uruguay, 1938: Eva is thirteen years old. After two years of working for a shoe salesman who abused her, she has rebelled against him and her parents, found a job in a fashionable café, and begun to spend her evenings with a group of aspiring poets.

Months and years would stretch and turn and she always pined for this: these nights; smoky, electric, succulent, ineffable; the feel of the red table under her hand (chipped and glossy, sticky underneath) as the poets dreamed and joked and boasted; the way the air stretched and shimmered after her second glass of wine; the conversations that coiled intricately through war to recent essays to the deepest meaning of life. A light shone through those nights that Eva could not define, that vanished if she sought it too directly, that gilded everything it touched—voices, faces, wineglass, table, words—with numinous honey. She grew to rely on it, trusting its power to ward off all that must be kept away—drabness,
boredom, nightmares, the rage of home, the terror inside shoe stores and of Nazis in faraway lands. She was free inside its unseen sphere, and life became more possible. Surely the other poets felt it too: Joaquín, with his meticulous verses, knotted forehead, and arsenal of freshly sharpened pencils; Carlos, who smelled of shoe polish and stole moments at his father's law firm to scrawl odes on legal files; the Well-Known Poet, with his amiable laugh and unkempt gray hair; Pepe, with his pointy chin and fast martinis; Andrés, with his lucid voice, sharp thoughts, sharp smile; and Beatriz, the kind of girl whose laugh poured like molasses, whose poems brimmed with maudlin nubile shepherdesses yearning for their errant gaucho men. Eva could have borne her poems if she did not also sit so close to Andrés.
   
"We're changing the world, right, Andrés?" Beatriz said, twirling her hair on a slow finger.
   
"Poetry alone won't change the world," Andrés said. "But without it, where would we be? Stripped of mystery, passion, everything that urges us to stay awake despite the shit and pain of living. In a world full of war, we need it more than ever."
   
Joaquín and Carlos murmured their agreement. The Well-Known Poet nodded behind his cigarette smoke. Andrés' words mixed with the smoke, swirling around the table, imbibed on each poet's breath. In a world full of war. Eva felt the smoke and bulk of the Admiral Graf Spee within those words. It had been only a month since the German battleship had dragged its huge hard broken body into the port, seeking refuge, trailing fire and smoke and the toxic scent of battle. Uruguay was neutral. Uruguay was far from Europe. Uruguay had not been invaded the way Poland had last spring. But the Graf Spee came anyway, and so did the British ships that set it on fire. War's fingers were very long and they stretched over the Atlantic and shook up her city the way a ghost's cold fingers reach through a window and shudder you awake in your own bed. That's how it was when Eva woke to Papá in the hall telling Tomás about the Graf Spee: the smoke was thick like—well, like—a big black blanket, all over the port, and up on the crane we were coughing like crazy, and I saw the Nazis standing on deck rigid like fucking toothpicks, like everything was fine, like they were breathing air from the fucking Alps. After the German captain gave up and sank his battleship to the bottom of the river, Eva dreamed of dead wet Nazis smashing her windows and crawling into her bed, cold and dripping, cutting her with shards of glass and ship and with their fingernails.
   
Andrés had written a sonnet called "Graf Spee's Ghost" and it occurred to her that he might understand. She tapped his foot with hers. He smiled without looking at her.
   
"The things you say," she told him later on their walk home. "The way you say them. Everybody listens."
 
"It's just talk."
   
The heart of things, you touch it when you speak; somehow you shake and shift the flesh reality is made of. "It's more than that."
   
They walked home together every night, but never all the way to the door. They did not want to be discovered. Eva came to dread buying the family meat, because of the way Coco pinned her with doleful eyes. "What happened to that son of mine? You, Eva, tell me! He barely even lives here anymore."
  
 We are told, Andrés wrote, that the world is made of burlap: / Coarse, enduring—when really it is gauze, / Layer upon layer, fine, fragile, infinite, / We can see our fingers through it in the light.

Salomé
 
Montevideo, Uruguay, 1966: Salomé is fifteen years old. She has watched the nation become increasingly repressive, as well as admired the Cuban revolution from afar. Her best friend, Leona, has just led her to a clandestine meeting.

They entered a cramped dark room with no windows. Four people sat inside: Leona's sister, Anna, with her long face and gold-rimmed glasses; a young man in a starched collar; another man in his late twenties with a square face and bushy beard; and a broad, large muchacho with hair that wisped into his face, who looked older than Salomé, about seventeen. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place him, couldn't think, because they all were staring at her.
   
Leona motioned for her to sit down. Salomé arranged herself carefully on the freezing floor, regretting that she'd rushed out in her knee-length school skirt. She tasted the mingled breaths of six people and two oil lamps.
   
Bushy Beard nodded toward Leona, who closed the door.
   
"So," Bushy said, "you're Salomé."
   
She nodded. All eyes were still on her.
   
"She can really be trusted?"
   
Leona's nod was decisive.
   
Bushy stared at Salomé. His eyes were dark green, shaded by a ledge of brow. "What do you know about the Tupamaros?"
   
She cleared her throat. So here it was. "They plan to liberate Uruguay."
   
"Where did you hear that?"
   
"In the papers—"
   
"The papers are much less favorable."
   
"And my family talking."
   
The wisp-haired boy grinned and now she placed him, the grandson of Cacho Cassella, the magician from Abuelo's youth. Tinto Cassella. He winked at her in the low light.
   
Bushy continued. "What do you think about the Tupamaros?" She had rolled that question through her mind all day. "That they're important. And brave."
   
"What would you say to a Tupamaro if you met one?"
   
She saw Leona in her peripheral vision, lifting her chin, leaning forward, and Salomé could almost smell the eucalyptus, feel the stippled light of their lawn. " 'I admire what you're doing and I want to be part of it.' "
   
Bushy Beard was impassive. "What if that Tupa told you that liberation is only achieved by action—including force, when necessary?"
   
That was when she saw the guns. They almost blended into the dark walls: rifles in the corner, a pistol at Anna's knee. She'd seen guns before, on policemen, in soldiers' hands, in photos of the Cuban Revolution—but never so close, and not in the lap of a university girl, not within reach of a man giving her a test. Her body felt like a cup full of crushed ice, so tight and cold. But guns, of course, were necessary, weren't they? A dirty need that you don't want but can't ignore, like defecation. She thought of Che, luminous Che, embracing a sleek rifle in his sleep. The air hung thick, unventilated, pressing.
   
"I'd agree."
   
Bushy Beard leaned closer. "How old are you?"
   
"Fifteen."
   
"You understand what's being asked?"
   
"Yes."
   
"You don't think you're too young?"
   
"No."
   
He stroked his beard. He glanced around the room. "Any comments?"
   
Tinto raised his hand. "I know her. Our grandparents are friends. She's a good person, reliable."
   
Leona added, "I would trust her with my life."
   
"That's good," Bushy Beard said. "You may have to. Any concerns?" The room was silent.
   
"All in favor?"
   
All the members raised their hands. Leona hugged her tightly. "Welcome, friend."

 

Table of Contents

PAJARITA
Uno The Girl Who Appeared in a Tree
Dos Strange Wires and Stolen Sacraments

EVA
Tres Voices, Faces, Wineglass, Table, Words
Cuatro The Art of Making Oneself Anew
Cinco Across Black Water, a Secret Sea

SALOMÉ
Seis The World Is Pushed by Many Hands
Siete Steel Rabbits and Songs That Melt Snow
Ocho Keens, Howls, Hunger for the Sun
Nueve Soft Tongues by the Millions

Acknowledgments

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of The Invisible Mountain, Carolina De Robertis's mesmerizing debut novel about three generations of Uruguayan women.

1. Regarding the title, De Robertis said, “I see the themes of this story running through the characters' lives as they hunger and strive for intangible entities they cannot see.” What are they striving for? What other meanings does the title have?

2. Were you familiar with Uruguayan or Argentinean history before reading the novel? Would you like to learn more?

3. Reread the epigraphs. When you first read them, what did you expect from the novel? In reading them again, why do you think De Robertis chose them?

4. The novel opens with Salomé's letter to Victoria, in which she writes, “Everything that disappears is somewhere” (pp. 3). How does this notion play out over the course of the novel?

5. All three women go to great lengths to remain true to themselves, to find authenticity. How does each suffer for it? Who is most successful?

6. Which mother-daughter relationship did you most relate to?

7. How does each woman's name help to determine her life story?

8. Pajarita's story begins with a miracle. Are there other miracles in the novel? What do they signify?

9. What role do Pajarita's herbs play in the novel? Why are they so important?

10. How does the oldest generation's ignorance of politics lead to the youngest generation's activism?

11. There are several different types of male-female relationships in the novel, among them father-daughter, brother-sister, and lovers. In which type are the men most supportive of the women? Why do you think that is?

12. Discuss the power of words, as it applies to the main characters. Does Pajarita revere them as her daughter and granddaughter do? For whom are they most important?

13. What do you think causes Eva's paralysis?

14. After the first rape, why does Eva return to Pietro's store?

15. Discuss Eva's time in Argentina. How does it change her?

16. How does the character of Andrés/Zolá relate to De Robertis's notion of authenticity? Did Eva's response to her surprise you?

17. Why does Eva keep her children's shoes?

18. Throughout the novel, the women carry great secrets. How does secrecy affect each of their relationships?

19. On page 349, Salomé thinks, “People do not suspect what they cannot imagine.” How does this apply to Pajarita and Eva, too?

20. Why does Salomé refuse Leona's offer of a knitting needle?

21. How does Salomé survive her years in prison? What helps her most?

22. Discuss the ending. Why does Ignazio insist on a gondola? Where do you think he takes his wife?

23. How do you imagine Victoria will react to Salomé's letter?

24. Which character did you like the best? Who would you like to spend more time with?

Customer Reviews

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The Invisible Mountain 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
jmccannAZ More than 1 year ago
This novel completely swept me away. The Invisible Mountain is really like three novels in one. It's an expansive story of three strong women, told in three parts, yet woven together. Set mostly in Uruguay, and spanning most of the 20th century, it begins with the story of Pajarita, a lost infant who mysteriously re-appears in the countryside, high in a tree, New Year's day 1900. The small town of Tucuarembo had been known for starting centuries with some sort of miracle, no matter how peculiar. "Miracles are miracles. they come unannounced and unexplained and have no guarantee of giving you what you want; and yet you take them; they are the hidden bones of ordinary life." This captivating piece of language drew me in to Pajarita's story, and the author's poetic prose carried me through Pajarita's marriage at 16 to an Italian immigrant, their move to the burgeoning Uruguayan city of Montevedio, the birth of her three children, and her discovery of inner strength when her husband fell short of providing for the family. When her daughter Eva's story began, I was sad. How could I possibly be drawn in to her story as much as I had been to Pajarita's? But I was drawn in, maybe even more so, as much by the author's beautiful verse as by another fiercely independent woman's story. Then came Eva's daughter, Salome, and the epic tale of this Uruguayan family continued. Each of these woman grew up in different times. Each faced her own tragedies, endured her own betrayals, buried her own secrets. Each loved and lost and found her strength in different ways. Yet they all shared a common bond of family, of womanhood and motherhood, of history and of stories passed down through generations that sustained them in the darkest of times. As a sweeping historical, this novel weaves in key events of the 20th century -- World Wars, economic recessions, the rise of communism, revolutions and revolts, the power of democracy -- all from the perspective of this small, hopeful, South American country. I got lost in time and in a different culture, drinking bitter mate tea passed in a traditional gourd, gulping red wine at 3 a.m. in a backroom bar, breathing cigarette smoke in the humid breeze of the La Rambla river. This is a book that will inhabit my thoughts for a long time. It is full of small miracles and "the hidden bones of ordinary life." When my memory of it begins to fade, I will read and savor it again.
Delmira_Ferreira More than 1 year ago
Big expectations! A book about my small and almost unknown country. It seemed thrilling at first, but then...nothing. If you've never heard from Uruguay, you won't get wiser reading this novel. The country described, the people, the cities, they don't exist, they are sheer fantasy. Tacuarembó was founded 1832. How could there be miracles at the beginnig of the 19. and 18. centuries. So, from the very start the story is fully inaccurate. So this is not Isabel Allende writing about Chile, this just a woman, who was born in the USA and writes about a country she only knows from family anecdotes. And the characters! Women in Uruguay are not this way. We've got the first divorce in Southamerica in 1907, women here are, and always were, aware of their rights, they are bold and independant. Like my grandmother, who was born in a small town near Tacuarembó in 1893. She was a brave lady who raised nine children, six of them girls, and everyone had to study to became a teacher, a lawyer, a physician. So I was very upset to learn that a girl like Pajarita, born in Tacuarembó, the capital city of the province, did not go to school and remained illiterate. 1876 the primary school was declared compulsory by the goverment. So, I could write more and more, but it would be boring for the readers and in any case it is not worth the effort. Enjoy the book if you like it, but remember, this is not real!
Litfan More than 1 year ago
It's difficult to believe that this is a debut novel. The prose is exquisitely rendered but never overdone, and the characters seem to come to life on the pages. Covering the lives of three generations of women: Pajarita, Eva, and Salome, the novel moves from Uruguay to Argentina and back again, tracing wars, revolutions and history as it traces the lives of these three fascinating women. It is well-researched and effectively transports the reader to South America. This is a book that you can truly disappear into; I found myself almost disoriented when it was time to put the book down. To me, this is the mark of a great writer-- when the reader can truly live inside the story. A very highly recommended novel.
ZoharLaor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book starts off with a miracle. In the first day of the twentieth century a baby girl, who disappeared from a village after her mother died giving birth to her, was found on top of a tree, that little girl is named Pajarita (Little Bird) and thus the story begins.The narrative spans 90 years or so, following the lives of Pajarita, her daughter Eva and granddaughter (Eva¿s daughter) Salomé and follows the women through a personal story which also mirrors the chaotic history of Uruguay through their own personal struggles. The book is divided into three sections, each devoted to one of the women. The first section we learn about Pajarita, how she met her husband, an Italian immigrant, and follows him from her small village to Montevideo and builds a life for them. The second section tells us about Pajarita¿s daughter, Eva, a poet at heart who was forced to drop out of school at the tender age of 10 and work at a shoe store for a family friend. Eva is abused by the friend and takes matters into her own hands by running away to Buenos Aires where she marries and has children before being chased out of Argentina and returning to Montevideo. The third section belongs to Salomé, Eva¿s daughter, who is encouraged to fulfill the education her mother never got. However Salomé becomes involved in the political turmoil of the time and pays a heavy price for her ideals.The story is not a simple good vs. evil, the characters are flushed out, each has his or hers good side and bad side ¿ shades of gray. The heroines of the story are not depicted as ¿holier than thou¿ victims of a cruel life but as normal humans with their own weaknesses, strengths and different sides which take shape throughout their lives.The narrative is complex and beautifully written, very lyrical, deliberate and effective, the storytelling is masterful and the characters are well drawn out ¿ even the minor character each has their own rich history. One of the most important characters in the book is not a human, but a country. The author did a masterful job researching Uruguay, its culture and history. Besides enjoying the story I also felt I learned a lot about this South American country and have gotten a good introduction to its history.
amandacb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really, quite a beautiful book (with a beautiful cover, too), about three generations of women. I found that as the generations went on the women became more unlikeable, until the last woman was someone I didn't really care much about, but the previous two women certainly made up for that pitfall. A great historical fiction piece.
markon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Through the eyes of three generations of women, the novel tells the story of the family and the country during the 20th century. It begins with the birth of Pajarita (bird) at the turn of the century and follows her migration to the city as well as her economic and marital struggles.Her daughter Eva is a poet by nature. Encouraged by her father to leave school at age 10 to work in a store belonging to a friend of the family, Eva is unable to complain to her parents of her sexual betrayal by this friend, and makes her own choices about jobs and living arrangements in her mid-to-late teens, running away to Buenos Aires where she eventually marries.Salome', Eva's daughter lives a more protected life in the midst of extended family, and she and her brother are strongly encouraged to pursue the education Eva didn't get. Salome is influenced by a classmate and experiences at her mother's communist cousin's house, and becomes involved with political activists, which results in some seriously unpleasant consequences.I especially liked the way various points of view were espoused by different members of the family during Salome's portion of the story. (I found her unquestioning acceptance of her assignment to forgo college and work as a secretary a bit hard to believe, but it is probably realistic for the time period.)The "invisible mountain" has multiple references. Literally, it refers to the capital city, Montevideo (monte vide eu - I see a mountain, supposedly what the first Portuguese said when spotting the coastline), although the city is not on a mountain.It also points, via a quote from Dante at the beginning of the novel, to the "delectable mountain" that Dante tries (and fails) to climb at the beginning of the Inferno. It is also referenced by a quote from Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.This novel is complex and nuanced, and I highly recommend it.
Litfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's difficult to believe that this is a debut novel. The prose is exquisitely rendered but never overdone, and the characters seem to come to life on the pages. Covering the lives of three generations of women: Pajarita, Eva, and Salome, the novel moves from Uruguay to Argentina and back again, tracing wars, revolutions and history as it traces the lives of these three fascinating women. It is well-researched and effectively transports the reader to South America. This is a book that you can truly disappear into; I found myself almost disoriented when it was time to put the book down. To me, this is the mark of a great writer-- when the reader can truly live inside the story. A very highly recommended novel.
Soniamarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent debut novel. It addresses so many different family issues in each generation. Namely three generations spanning 90 years. The book is in three parts. Part one is Pajarita, part two is her daughter Eva, and part three is Salome, Pajarita's granddaughter. Pajarita's tale takes place in Uruguay in the early 1900s. She is a "miracle child" that disappears as a baby and suddenly reappears in a tree much later. When she becomes a young woman, she marries Ignazio, who is a gondola maker from Italy (he has his own unique story, but does not take too much of the book to tell it) now traveling with a carnival. Their whirlwind romance takes them to Montevideo where things start to sour as they deal with financial difficulties, gambling problems, and alcoholism. Pajarita deals with it all, raises her children, supports her family, and throughout the novel, appears to be a shelter in the storm. Eva's life is a bit more difficult. Her life introduces issues like child labor, child sexual abuse, and mental trauma. Things turn bad for her at home and she runs off to Argentina with a friend. She suffers much heartache before marrying a doctor and beginning a "perfect" life, only to end up exiled from the Peron's country. Eva's story tells a lot of Argentina's politics and the rise and fall of the Peron family, including the much revered Evita. After returning to Monetvideo with her husband and two children in tow, readers are introduced to more issues, including affairs, divorce, and even sex changes. Salome's story is the worst. It will be noted at this point that each generation has it worse than the last. I enjoyed this part much less than the others as it is mostly about Revolution and politics. Salome gives up school to join an underground revolution and of course, ends up arrested and imprisioned for ten years. I scanned over much of Salome's story. The life she leads in prison is rough and unpleasant, but it was the political details that bored me. The ending was absolutely stunning. A great debut novel. Would have warranted 5 stars except for the last part. I will be keeping an eye out for more by this author.
MarciaDavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book starts off with a miracle. In the first day of the twentieth century a baby girl, who disappeared from a village after her mother died giving birth to her, was found on top of a tree, that little girl is named Pajarita (Little Bird) . The narrative spans 90 years or so, following the lives of Pajarita, her daughter Eva and granddaughter (Eva¿s daughter) Salomé and follows the women through a personal story which also mirrors the chaotic history of Uruguay through their own personal struggles. The book is divided into three sections, each devoted to one of the women. The first section we learn about Pajarita, how she met her husband, an Italian immigrant, and follows him from her small village to Montevideo and builds a life for them. The second section tells us about Pajarita¿s daughter, Eva, a poet at heart who was forced to drop out of school at the tender age of 10 and work at a shoe store for a family friend. Eva is abused by the friend and takes matters into her own hands by running away to Buenos Aires where she marries and has children before being chased out of Argentina and returning to Montevideo. The third section belongs to Salomé, Eva¿s daughter, who is encouraged to fulfill the education her mother never got. However Salomé becomes involved in the political turmoil of the time and pays a heavy price for her ideals. A beautiful story exploring the history of South America as a backdrop to the connections between mothers and daughters.
kmaziarz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This extraordinary debut novel tells the recent history of Uruguay through the lives of three generations of women and their friends and families. Pajarita, born the youngest child of a small rural family, vanishes mysteriously while still an infant. On the first day of the 20th century, she reappears in a tree¿the miracle child who heralds the change of centuries. Her daughter, Eva, is forced to leave school when she is only ten to work in a family friend¿s shoe store. Suffering years of abuse at the hands of this supposed friend, Eva finally escapes the store to work as a waitress in a bohemian café where she makes the acquaintance of the poets who congregate there and finds her own creative aspirations soaring. Eva¿s daughter Salomé, raised in the ground-breaking 1960s and inspired by the revolution of Ché Guevara, finds herself recruited into a cell of Tupamaros, extreme revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the oppressive regime now in power in Uruguay. Captured eventually, Salomé is tortured and imprisoned for over ten years before being released into a new and very changed Uruguay.Enchanting, with touches of the magical realism so characteristic of South American literature, ¿The Invisible Mountain¿ is also funny, heartbreaking, and beautifully written. These generations of women come alive on the page and, through them, so does the history of an entire country and its diverse peoples. Highly recommended. This book stands with the finest of South American literature, rivaling Allende, Cisneros, and Alvarez for lyricism and power.
GarySeverance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Carolina de Robertis¿ novel is a history of three women, their families, and their country. Each woman perceives an invisible mountain and believes her impassioned climb will contribute to the well-being of her family, Montevideo, and Uruguay. The lives of Pajarita, Eva, and Solome are filled with stories told in their family homes that provide a safe haven for members of all generations to listen. The stories are material that grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter weave to develop an oral tradition that defines themselves and their passion. It does not matter if the stories are true or apocryphal as long as they are preserved as a vibrant record of life.In The Invisible Mountain, the narrative history of the family recapitulates the historical record of Uruguay. The name of the capital city, Montevideo means `I see a mountain.¿ Folklore has it that the name was a cry of a European seafarer on first sight of the city from a distance. While there is elevation change in Montevideo, it cannot be perceived by any means as a mountain. It is the belief by the people of the small country that the mountain may be part of the cultural identity of the individual.The mythical origins of Uruguay are seen in the life of Pajarita the maternal head of the Firielli family. She develops special healing and nurturing powers that greatly help her family members and friends. The powers come from the earth of Uruguay in the form of plants with unique sustaining effects. She begins her adult life under the rule of a benevolent leader of her country, a time of peace and hope for the poor and the rich.Eva is a woman with a unstoppable energy to create, a renaissance woman in a period of Uruguay history that stretches the boundaries of the old ways. She writes poetry and fills dresser drawers with her words on loose leafs of paper. She returns home from an artist¿s flight to Argentina, escaping the artistic oppression of Juan Peron¿s government. Greatly influenced by the passion of Evita, Eva influences the literary awakening of Uruguay.Solome¿s passion develops during a time of unrest when dictators have come to rule Uruguay with fascist strategies. Solome is moved by stories of maltreatment of people who speak out and fight for social justice. She sees the revolutionary socialist movement as a return to the Uruguay of her grandmother, Pajarita not realizing the dangers of fighting the government controlled military. Solome comes to represent the resilience and procreative strength of the people in the late 20th Century. She is the birth mother of hope, resistance, and victory of the feminine spirit.In this rich narrative, de Robertis creates a wonderful panorama in which women are the story weavers, artistic expressionists, and self actualizing leaders of their family and Uruguay¿s enduring culture. This is an excellent work, and I give it an unqualified five star rating.
readerbynight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de RobertisCarolina de Robertis writes with a passion as deep and intense as the tango, the thread that holds so much of South America together. The Invisible Mountain is a lyrical narrative on the tides of life in Uruguay throughout the twentieth century. As symbolic as the traditional shared cup or gourd of mate, Ms. de Robertis has a unique talent that embraces everything within the lives of three generations of women and their families. She conveys imagination and imagery exquisitely.The novel begins with the introduction of the main characters' origins prior to 1900 to set the background for the story to come. A young man escaping a brutal life in Italy, and an infant girl whose mother dies in childbirth and is blamed by her father for the death. A miracle happens New Years Eve at the turn of the century which saves her life. From this point on the real story begins. This is the first generation, and the baby, Pajarita, will become the glue that binds the generations.The book is divided in three sections: Pajarita, Eva, and Salome. Separate yet intertwined, these three women, grandmother, mother, and daughter, live through the turbulence of coups, revolutions, despair, hope, passion, and always the rhythm of life and country. Three very distinct women. Pajarita keeps her family fed when her husband disappears by selling the herbs and treatments she has learned at the local butcher shop, along with her personality and advice. Though set primarily in Montevideo, Uruguay, Eva, a poet, moves and marries in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the regime of Peron, before fleeing with her husband and family in the night back to Uruguay. Salome, in her teens, wants nothing more than to save her country and becomes a Tupamaro, a revolutionist.This book is inspirational, historical, powerful and passionate. I became deeply invested in it, even feeling the music running through the background as if to say I am here, I will not be forgotten. Listen. Feel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful imagery and insight.  This author ranks up there with Anne Patchett, Barbara Kingsoler, and Alice Hoffman.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
"Pajarita". In Tacuaremb, Uruguay on Jan. 1, 1900, a baby miraculously flies from the treetops to her grandmother; her name is Pajarita, the little bird. Years after the miracle, Venetian immigrant Ignazio Firielli joins a touring troupe of magicians. When he meets Pajarita, he falls in love at first sight. They marry and he takes his bride to Montevideo. However, over the years he turns to whores, gambling and drinking while she supports the family with her healing herbal elixirs. "Eva" When their oldest daughter Eva turns ten, Ignazio removes her from school to work at the shoe shop; the owner assumes part of her duty is being raped until she flees to La Diablita restaurant where revolutionaries plot the overthrow of the decadent. Eva waits tables while writing poetry until she relocates with her friend Andres in Buenos Aires. There she marries Dr. Santos, a close associate of Peron. Eva gives birth to Roberto and Salome while writing poetry. When Argentina turns dangerously revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, she flees with her two kids back to Uruguay. "Salome". Whereas Salome heeds her mom's revolutionary fervor, she also ignores her mom's enjoyment of the good life. She joins the Tupamaros revolutionaries who try to overthrow the Uruguayan dictatorship, but fail. Salome and others are incarcerated and tortured with no hope for the future until after years of imprisonment she is freed and Montevideo is not the same as her memories. Using three generations of females in a family, Carolina De Robertis tells a great tale of the twentieth century history of Uruguay and to a lesser degree Argentina. The story line employs pathos and humor to relate the cultural and political changes that swept across Uruguay. The three women are terrific unique protagonists who hold their part of the tres tales together as each in their way believes in a better life for herself, her loved ones, and her country. This historical fiction will be on the short lists of best historical novel of the year. Harriet Klausner
muf More than 1 year ago
also expected a better ending.