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Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966)

by Jorge Amado

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2842814,031 (3.91)67
When a passionate young widow marries a respectable but undemonstrative man, the naked ghost of her first husband returns to make her life more interesting.

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In Dona Flor, Jorge Amado creates a character that defines the tension between spirit and matter; proud of her tact and meekness, but nursing a hidden flame. The reader explores both the wealthy and uptight class and the gambling, fun-loving lower classes of Bahia, Brazil. Vadinho, her first husband, is an inveterate gambler, womanizer, and drunk who loves Dona Flor honestly but imperfectly. He drops dead in the first chapter, and Flor is plunged into widowhood. Her second husband is an upright and honest man who also adores Flor, but is, quite simply, boring as hell.

The reader meets inhabitants of the underbelly, and the cream of the crop as well, in an unstoppable parade of characters that situate her firmly in Amado's world. The shallow henpecking of the wealthy, their endless formalities and judgments, speaks to the author's love of the working class, whom we meet as a partying rabble of free thinkers and lovers.

Amado uses Vadinho's return from the dead to explore what happens to people when they are split inside, how it is possible to love two people at once (easier when one of them is dead), how to rectify differences between matter and spirit. Told with good humor, an empathetic understanding of why people act the way they do toward one another, and a wonderful sense of raunchy goodness, the book makes a defense for love without excuses or shame. ( )
  MaryJeanPhillips | Jun 22, 2022 |
For the first 500 pages or so, this pretends to be a straightforward pastiche of an old-fashioned social-realist novel, the sort of thing Balzac would undoubtedly have written, had he been a hundred years younger and living in Bahia. It's all about the flimsiness of the veneer of respectability that (notionally) separates the ambitious, modern, bourgeois, Catholic residents of Salvador de Bahia from the colourful world of gambling, vice, and traditional religion that surrounds them.

Dona Flor is a respectable, self-made woman, proprietor of a celebrated cookery school for the daughters of the rich, but her first husband, Vadinho, is an irresponsible gambler and a party-animal who can't give her anything but love. When he meets his untimely end whilst dancing in drag at the carnival, Flor follows the advice of her friends and — after the required decent interval — takes the considerate, methodical and ever-so-slightly-boring pharmacist and amateur bassoonist Teodoro as her second husband. Naturally, she still has occasional pangs for her nights of passion with the late Vadinho, and Amado takes shameless advantage of her weakness to play a Latin-American novelist's trump card in the last 150 pages, producing much very entertaining chaos in the process.

This is the sort of book where you feel you must be missing out on a lot of in-jokes at the expense of Amado's friends and neighbours, but it also sneaks in quite a lot of detailed social analysis of provincial Brazil in the mid-20th century and the changes it was going through. Flor and her friends are women who have been brought up with a very narrow idea of their role in the world, but many of them have found more or less subtle ways to challenge that. ( )
  thorold | Oct 5, 2021 |
I enjoyed the story and the characters, and the des fiction of the food and culture o

of Brazil. It was a little too dense at times, and about 100 pages too long. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Undoubtedly one of the best novels I have ever read about the duality of the human spirit. This novel reached into my heart and mind and drew me into its mystical, magical, superstitious Brazilian tale. Jorge Amado starts by tickling the reader's fancy with a romance between a good girl, Flor, and a lovable, sensual gambler, Vadinho. He is the classic villain we hate to love. That is the skeleton of the story.

Amado proceeds to people the Bahian city with fantastic and fantastical characters. The reader meets the literati, the illiterate, the pagan and the prudish, the rich and the poor,the gossips, the whores, the matriarchs and more. Eventually, the reader finds it harder and harder to surface for air. All the while, Amado, while weaving a marvelous, prototypical Brazilian melodrama, is laying the complex groundwork for what I consider to be the primary theme of the novel. Just when I thought I was in the groove of the story of duality within our protagonist, Flor, Amado's tale erupts in primordial chaos of mind, body, and spirit. Mystical upheaval ensues as the gods become transparent in their own duplicity. Social class inequity, personal destiny, loyalty and love.....no topic remains off limits in this sweeping psychological story. Amado is an absolute master in his ability to create a culture and to reel in the reader using hooks baited with marvelous plot, engaging prose, absolutely wonderful character development and more.

In the end, what can one believe in? Peace comes with acceptance of duality? Or, as the final sentences purports, "And with this we come to the end of the tale of Dona Flor and her two husbands, set forth in all its details ad mysteries, as clear and dark as life itself. All this took place in Bahia, where these and other acts of magic occur without startling anybody. If anyone has his doubts, let him ask Cardoso e Sa., and he will tell him whether or no it is the truth. He can be found on the planet Mars or on any poor corner of the city. ( )
1 vote hemlokgang | Aug 31, 2015 |
Although I've been reading lots of Amado in the recent past, I have somehow neglected his most famous novel which has been on my TBR for decades. And what a delightful read it turned out to be.

Flor is a naive young girl, already a cooking instructor, who is swept off her feet by the charming scoundrel, Vadinho, and marries him. But, although their sex life is fabulous, he is an inveterate gambler and womanizer, stays out all night at casinos and whorehouses, and runs through Flor's money (but not what she hides away). Then, suddenly, after seven years of marriage, he drops dead, and Flor is a widow. Despite the fact that her cooking school has always been successful and that she has various friends who support her emotionally, she misses Vadhino and is tormented by her sexual desire. Finally, after her year of mourning is up, she discovers that the local druggist, Teodoro, is in love with her, and they eventually marry. Teodoro is the opposite of Vadhino: reliable, good with money, monogamous -- and boring, especially sexually, where he has a schedule of Wednesday night and twice on Saturday night, and always conducts his sexual activity beneath the sheets and with some of their night clothes on. While Flor sincerely appreciates his other good qualities, she knows she's missing something. Then, lo and behold, Vadinho appears, initially only to her, and uses all his power of persuasion to attempt to convince her that he is still married to her and so it wouldn't be a sin for them to resume their wild and wonderful sex life.

If this were all there was in this book, it would still be a delightful sex farce. But Amado goes on digressions -- oh, how he goes on digressions. The reader learns about gambling, and cooking, and the process of making drugs by hand (and the controversy about manufactured drugs), and music (Teodoro is a serious amateur bassoon player), and African gods, and corruption in government, and the criminals behind gambling, and on and on on. Sometimes it gets a little much, but mostly it is very enjoyable. Amado also creates many wonderful secondary characters, both good and bad and in between, all of whom spring to life. All in all, this was a fun read.
5 vote rebeccanyc | Aug 1, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jorge Amadoprimary authorall editionscalculated
de Onis, HarrietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grechi, ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Information from the Portuguese (Brazil) Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph in first Portuguese edition - Deus é gordo.
(revelação de Vadinho ao retornar)

A terra é azul.
(confirmou Gagarin após o primeiro vôo espacial)

Um lugar para cada coisa e cada coisa em seu lugar.
(dístico na parede da farmácia do dr. Teodoro Madureira)

(suspirou dona Flor)

In English -
God is fat.
(revelation of Vadinho upon his return)

The Earth is blue.
(confirmed Yuri Gagarin after the first space flight)

A place for everything and everything in its place.
(Motto on the wall of the pharmacy of Dr. Teodoro Madureira)

(sighed dona Flor)
Dedication in first Portuguese edition - "Para Zélia, na tarde quieta de jardim e gatos, na cálida ternura deste abril; para João e Paloma, na manhã das primeiras leituras e dos primeiros sonhos.

Para minha comadre Norma de Guimarães Sampaio, acidentalmente personagem, cuja presença honra e ilustra estas pálidas letras. Para Beatriz Costa, de quem Vadinho foi sincero admirador. Para Eneida, que teve o privilégio de ouvir o Hino Nacional executado ao fagote pelo dr. Teodoro Madureira. Para Giovanna Bonino, que possui um ólio do pintor José de Dome - retrato de dona Flor adolescente, em ocres e amarelos. Quatro amigos aqui juntas no afeto do autor.

Para Diaolas Riedel e Luiz Monteiro.

(In English) For Zelia, in the quiet afternoon of garden and cats, in the warm tenderness of this April; for João and Paloma, in the morning of first readings and of first dreams.

For Norma dos Guimarães Sampiao, an accidental character, whose presence honors and illuminates these pale words. For Beatriz Costa, of whom Vadinho was a sincere admirer. For Eneida, who had the privilege of hearing the National Anthem played on the bassoon by Dr. Teodoro Madureira. For Giovanna Bonino, who owns an oil painting by José de Dome - a portrait of the adolescent dona Flora, in ochres and yellows. Four friends united here in the affection of the author.

For Diaulas Riedel e Luiz Monteiro.
First words
“Vadinho, Dona Flor’s first husband died on a Sunday of Carnival, in the morning, when, wearing a Bahiana costume, he was sambaing in a bloco, happy as ever, not far from home.”
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

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When a passionate young widow marries a respectable but undemonstrative man, the naked ghost of her first husband returns to make her life more interesting.

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