I received this book for free from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Head of the Saint by Daniel Hahn, Socorro Acioli
Published by Hot Key Books on 2nd October 2014
Genres: young adult
Source: Hot Key Books
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After walking for days across the harsh Brazilian landscape only to be rejected by his last living relative, Samuel finds his options for survival are dwindling fast - until he comes to the hollow head of a statue, perfect for a boy to crawl into and hide...
Whilst sheltering, Samuel realises that he can hear the villagers' whispered prayers to Saint Anthony - confessing lost loves, hopes and fears - and he begins to wonder if he ought to help them out a little. When Samuel's advice hits the mark he becomes famous, and people flock to the town to hear about their future loves. But with all the fame comes some problems, and soon Samuel has more than just the lovelorn to deal with. A completely charming and magically told Brazilian tale, sure to capture your heart.
I was intrigued the minute I read the premise of The Head of the Saint. It was rather vague, but in a good way because it meant that I wanted to read more and more to really consolidate my understanding of what was going on.
The women in Samuel’s family can tell when they’re going to die. Given three tasks to complete after his mother’s death, Samuel sets out on a journey to find his father and grandmother, leaving him starved and desperate. He then discovers that he can hear voices, voices of the women who are praying to a doomed saint in the hope of marriage.
Translated from Brazilian by Daniel Hahn, I found learning about the Brazilian culture through the eyes of a Brazilian person fascinating – it’s so much better than reading it from a foreign perspective. I felt like I was really witnessing the events, and it showed a side of Brazil I haven’t heard of before and isn’t depicted hugely in the media.
I have always found that translated fiction reads beautifully, with graceful prose and a fluidity that I can’t find in my native language. I could read The Head of the Saint purely for the lovely words, and Acioli has created vivid imagery that most writers would be envious of.
However, I did find that I couldn’t connect to the characters very well and they all blurred into one: they didn’t have any stand out characteristics or traits to differentiate them. This did detract from the overall story, although not by much. I still really enjoyed the plot.
I would recommend The Head of the Saint for a book that will resonate with you if you’re looking for something to read in an afternoon.