From Lisbon to Montreal, De Andrade’s (The Little Sect, 2015, etc.) second novel follows the lives of Marta and Tiago Sousa, a young Portuguese couple who stake their hopes for better opportunities on a move to Canada.
In April of 1974, the fascist government of Portugal that had ruled for almost 50 years was overthrown in a one-day military coup that was known as the Carnation Revolution. It’s on the morning of this revolution that we meet Marta and Tiago, both 24 years old, three-months married, and about to move into a new apartment just outside Lisbon. Marta works in the Lisbon office of SKF, a Swedish company, and Tiago is a mechanic for Auto Europa. Tiago has longed to move to Canada, where he believes that greater chances await for advancement and he can one day run his own auto-repair business. But Marta is pregnant, and the revolution bodes well for their future. They decide to remain close to family and friends, and the first half of the novel depicts the early, Lisbon years of their marriage. In 1979, Tiago is restless, and they agree to move to Montreal with their 4-year old son, Paulo, and start over. What follows is an immigrant’s tale—the hope, the fear, the challenges of learning to be part of a new cultural milieu, not to mention the need to become fluent in two new languages, English and French. The third-person narrative centers around Marta and concentrates on her family relationships and workplace experiences. She obtains employment with a shoe company, S & K Imports, and remains there for 30 years, until her retirement. This focus on her office life—in Lisbon and in Montreal—gives De Andrade the opportunity to explore differences between multicultural French Canada and homogeneous Portugal in terms of social norms, employee environments, and political institutions. There are sporadic grammatical stumbling blocks (“Tiago made sure to have Marta sat by his side.”), but the text is informative, if not quite passionate.
Dramatically light, but historically and sociologically interesting.