Carnival of Hope by George Hamilton

Meet a boy, meet a girl. Be immersed in their love story, the fleeting moments of ecstasy beautifully handled by the author. Enter the world of the Nordestinos of northeastern Brazil. Feel their squalor, the meanness of life without freedom, the impossibility of liberation. Add villains. Mix in action and a story with twists and turns that keep the reader wondering what happens next, and you’ve got CARNIVAL OF HOPE.

CARNIVAL OF HOPE by George Hamilton is the love story of Tomas and Thereza, their struggle to create a better life for themselves, the story of Tomas’s journey from a shanty in northeastern Brazil to the south, to Rio, a city with its own set of corruption, in search of the woman he loves. But the hero, Tomas, has feet of clay and through his mistakes, seems to lose the love of Theresa. She leaves. He searches for her.

Main characters include Seu Giomar, the mayor’s henchman, a not-so-subtle villain who epitomizes the corrupt world of small-time thugs who feed on the poor.

The book is also the love story of Tomas for learning and for teaching literacy, of his hardships, his striving, his journeys.

George Hamilton paints a picture of the slums of northeastern Brazil that left this reader feeling the hopelessness of the people, their worship of strange gods, the chains of their poverty. There is a haunting image of a young boy, Salgado who “played with his soiled toes.” But these scenes are punctuated by breathtakingly beautiful descriptions, for instance, the view of Rio seen for the first time by Tomas.

In CARNIVAL OF HOPE, the author presents an almost Dreiser-like view of the world. The reader experiences the circles of power within a favela that extend into the city through the buying and selling of lives and, by extension, touch all humans. On one level the novel is the story of mankind’s corruption and part of its meaning is bleak: many of the characters are themselves corrupted by the evil that corrupts them.

Eighty percent of the way through the novel, Tomas, the main character, has a significant moment of self doubt. Not that it’s his first moment of doubt, not at all. Throughout the novel he doubts his own powers and the course that he’s taken. He doubts his ability to succeed. But at this moment, Tomas questions his own righteousness. His sense of self-worth is at its lowest point:

Maybe the gods knew how selfish we all were when left to the vagaries of our own devices, and so the faith that they offered was a pure filter to sift through our desires, if we let our trust reside in them.

In the end, CARNIVAL OF HOPE is a love story that examines a society, warts and all, with an ending that allows room for the reader’s imagination and sense of wonder. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be immersed, not only in a love story, but in the culture of the Brazilian favela during carnival season, the superstitions and longing of its people.

My Rating: 4 Stars

About the Author: George Hamilton studied at the University of East London, majoring in development economics. CARNIVAL OF HOPE is his second novel. His first, SECRETS FROM THE DUST, concerns aspects of the Australian Koori (Aboriginal). He currently lives in London, England.

CARNIVAL OF HOPE is an ebook, available at Amazon
Copyright © George Hamilton, 2011
ASIN: B006ARNIB0

This review also appears on Amazon and Goodreads.

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