Set in 1940’s Rio de Janeiro, Martha Batalha’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao follows a brilliant and passionate woman through her days of preparing food, tending to children, and altogether being overlooked and underappreciated. With a successful banker for a husband, she need only tend to the house and her offspring, passing her days with aimless monotony. While she struggles to find and develop an identity and talent of her own, we are introduced to many colorful characters along the way, namely women in the surrounding areas , some who have it better than Euridice, many who have it far, far worse. Their unspoken hardships and aspirations are woven throughout this rich tapestry of humor, pride, and perseverance.
At a time and place when women are to be beautiful, dutiful, and little more, Euridice exemplifies the restlessness of the modern woman. She loves her children and is grateful for her husband and the comfortable life he has provided for them but longs for more- for what exactly she is not certain. Batalha provides many foils to Euridice- other women who cannot bear what they perceive to be Euridice’s arrogance and disdain for duty while others are so destitute that they can only aspire to have the type of problems Euridice has. Batalha introduces us to a chorus of women- those who have love and lost, those embittered by fate, those who refuse to be kept down, those who are brimming with undiscovered potential and passion. Many of them have little dialogue within the story, bearing their burdens with an admirable if not enraging silence.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao. I saw myself not only in the restless yet determined Euridice, but in the deranged poetess who serves bananas for dinner- refusing to be the domestic goddess society would have her be- in Guida, Euridice’s sister, who will do absolutely anything to ensure her son’s well-being, and in countless other women who move relatively unseen through Batalha’s book. They are a reminder to talk to people and to truly listen to what they have to say.