Feast Days - Ian MacKenzie

Staff Pick

Thirty pages from the end of MacKenzie’s unsettling, riveting, second novel, he reveals his anonymous narrator as Emma, noting it’s “a name with a lot of literary overhang.” He leaves it to readers to decide if his protagonist is more Emma Bovary or Jane Austen’s Emma. Readers will also debate whether Emma is an unlikely narrator for MacKenzie’s close examination of “the anxiety of late capitalism” or the perfect one. Either way, Emma and her deceptively calm, almost analytical and always sharp voice are an inspired creation. The twenty-nine-year-old wife of an international banking big-shot, Emma has come with her husband to São Paulo, a “trailing spouse” with no apparent direction of her own. She’s resisting doing the “expected” thing and having a child; resisting being “erased” by domestic roles. Emma seems to drift through her days in a bubble of privilege, breathing the “cool expensive air” of restaurants. But she has degrees in cultural anthropology and “dead languages” and uses them both, observing the jarring discrepancies in Brazilian society, which may hold world records of both crack users and plastic surgery patients, and annotating her account with telling etymologies of obscure words. Through Emma’s eyes we see both the lavish birthday parties of upper-class nine-year-olds and the desperate existence of boys from the favelas where “everything around them advertised the low price of their lives.” Though Emma has only a vague idea of her husband’s work, she’s adopted his financial terms--to a point. He sees Brazil’s social unrest as unsustainable “irrational exuberance,” while Emma identifies with the demonstrators, sharing their impatience with the status quo. MacKenzie has lived in São Paulo and his book is full of vivid, unforgettable moments, such as the woman practicing mocambo and the “men in suits” emerging “from cars with the luxury items they were dating.”

Feast Days Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316440165
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Little, Brown and Company - March 13th, 2018

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