4 out of 5: This classic Brazilian novel, written by Machado de Assis and first published in 1899, is available in the U.S. in a new edition published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In this first-person narrative, an elderly Bento Santiago reminisces about his happy childhood, including his devoted mother and his enduring love for his childhood sweetheart, Capitú. Over time, Bento’s adolescent happiness matures into a complicated adult life, rife with drama and tragedy.
As Bento progresses through his life story, his easygoing and often humorous voice adopts a deceptively light tone. This misleading lightness masks a much darker story, one of a man regretful of destroying his happiness with his own crippling jealousy. Not only is Bento the master of his own tragedy, but he also revels in telling the story to us, complete with dramatic flourishes and strategic asides. With strong parallels to Shakespeare’s Othello, Dom Casmurro is a classic story of love won and then lost. Although over a century old, this fresh and modern story remains as relevant today as when it was first written.