Mystery, intrigue, and a touch of saudade. 300 Days of Sun, the new novel by British author Deborah Lawrenson, is an absolutely unputdownable story set in Portugal.
A tale of two expats
“You got so used to being saturated by light in this country that overcast skies seemed weighty and depressing.”
– Deborah Lawrenson
The novel follows the story of two women living in Portugal during very different times. British journalist, Joanna, runs away from her life in Brussels to learn Portuguese in Faro during 2014 while American expat, Alva, flees to Lisbon from Paris with her journalist husband at the start of WWII. You’re never quite sure what either of the characters has gotten themselves into: or how they’ll manage to get out of it. The two stories tie together in the most wonderful (but melancholy) way.
Well there’s a bit more to it than that. The main storyline (Joanna’s) is about unravelling the mystery surrounding organised crime, corruption and a potential child abduction ring on the Algarve coast. She (and her new friend Josh) meet some interesting, and dangerous, characters as they try to get to the bottom of a 20 year old crime.
Oh! And there’s some romance with handsome (mysterious) strangers. Basically it’s exciting, it’s a bit cerebral, and it’s the perfect book for reading beside the swimming pool of your Algarve hotel.
(speaking of which… how about visiting the Algarve this October?)
Lisbon, Faro and the essence of Portugal
“In its way, the city was as self-confident and beguiling as Paris.”
1940’s Lisbon is a very popular location for Portuguese fiction, and it’s easy to see why: the country was neutral during WWII and the capital was riddled with spies. I personally never tire of stories about wartime Lisbon, and having little bits and pieces broke up the action of Joanna and Josh’s adventures perfectly.
I really love the way this book talks about Portugal. I especially loved this evocative description of the calçadas down by the Tagus in Lisbon: “Symmetrical black and white waves rippled across the cobbles, the same motif as in Faro of the sea creeping across the city. I waded across to the monument.”
What is saudade?
It’s that typical Portuguese feeling of loss and longing (if you’ve heard Fado, you’ll know what I’m talking about). I think the author has it bang on when she says “it meant a kind of nostalgia for the present moment, a strange feeling that was both a sad acceptance of destiny and yet celebratory”. The emotion can really be felt throughout the book. It feels like whatever fresh adventure Joanna or Alva is setting off on, their experiences are always tinged with a hint of mournfulness.
Go buy this book!
Seriously. It’s nice and easy to read, but it’s very well written and the plot is super interesting. You can buy it on Amazon here.