The Air You Breathe: A Novel (Paperback)
"[A] glorious, glittery saga of friendship and loss... I read The Air You Breathe in two nights. (One might say I inhaled it.)." --NPR
"Echoes of Elena Ferrante resound in this sumptuous saga."--O, The Oprah Magazine
"Enveloping...Peebles understands the shifting currents of female friendship, and she writes so vividly about samba that you close the book certain its heroine's voices must exist beyond the page." -People
The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride--and each woman's fear that she would be nothing without the other.
Some friendships, like romance, have the feeling of fate.
Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.
One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes--and haunt their memories.
Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Rio de Janeiro's famous Lapa neighborhood, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.
About the Author
Frances de Pontes Peebles is the author of the novel The Seamstress, which was translated into nine languages and won the Elle Grand Prix for fiction, the Friends of American Writers Award, and the James Michener-Copernicus Society of America Fellowship. Born in Pernambuco, Brazil, she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
"[A] glorious, glittery saga of friendship and loss...Along the way [the two main characters] acquire... total interconnectedness, the likes of which I last found in Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend... I read The Air You Breathe in two nights. (One might say I inhaled it.) ...The Air You Breathe is genuinely exciting to watch." —NPR
"Gorgeous … Peebles captures the complexity of these two women forever linked by their early bonds, and she vivifies their colorful times and the nuances in their relationship as it evolves over the decades." –The National Book Review
"Enveloping…Peebles understands the shifting currents of female friendship, and she writes so vividly about samba that you close the book certain its heroines' voices must exist beyond the page." –People
"Frances de Pontes Peebles captures the profound complexity of female friendships." –Business Insider
"We love, love, love novels centered on female friendship—especially a complicated one like this."–HelloGiggles
"Frances de Pontes Peebles' atmospheric second novel tracks a rich and volatile friendship through Brazil's sugar plantations, lively Rio streets, and beyond." –Shondaland
"An absolute masterpiece…beautifully rendered…THE AIR YOU BREATHE manages to weave together the delicious tales of interpersonal relationships with the art of music making, while never losing sight of its reader/audience…Peebles is a master at sustaining dramatic tension, a wizard with intrigue and language, and a skilled curator of intimacy…Even more challenging is the ability to be able to create unapologetic antiheroes, which Peebles excels at…The tension created by these elements—the sociopolitical context, the drama of interpersonal relationships and queerness, and the high-stakes nature of subsisting off art—make a masterful book, sure to enthrall from beginning to end." –Lambda Literary
"Echoes of Elena Ferrante resound in this sumptuous saga."—O, The Oprah Magazine
"The Air You Breathe is a beautiful, luscious ode to the lasting friendships that shape our lives." –BookRiot
"While The Air You Breathe is a brilliant portrayal of female friendship, equally brilliant are Peebles’ descriptions of the soulful step-by-step rhythm of whipped-up samba musicians, the dank back rooms & makeshift stages of boozy clubs in Rio, how the world magically retreats when a bedazzled singer steps into view, erupting in song, and finally the celluloid seduction of Hollywood studios. This is a remarkable and deeply felt tale of the price of ambition and fame." –KMUW
"I loved getting to know Graça and Dores, two brave young women who leave the lives they were given behind in pursuit of the lives they desire. This novel has countless nuggets of wisdom that sneak up on you at the perfect moment…You’ll love this story of a lifelong friendship—and like me, you might find yourself looking back at the songs or people that first shaped you." – Diane Guerrero, author of In the Country We Love, starred in the hit series Orange is the New Black.
"A poor orphan and a wealthy heiress whose roller-coaster friendship is a welcome reminder that time can make any relationship stronger."—Glamour
"If you like your fictional friendships cinematically devoted and rocky, Frances de Pontes Peebles’s The Air You Breathe is gold." –Redbook
"A haunting, poetic novel about friendship, love, and longing, tinged with golden age glamour. A perfect fit for any general fiction collection." –Library Journal, starred review
“Beautifully written and structured. … The Air You Breathe is a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship, with many lows, and it shows how friendship shapes our lives and what we owe to it. This is one of those novels you find hard to put down without finishing.” –The Washington Book Review
"The book practically moves in your hand; it is so musical in story and in prose. It's a joy to read and the original lyrics could easily be mistaken for classic sambas." –NPR Alt.Latino
"This majestic, emotionally astute novel is as haunting and lovely as the perfect samba." –Dallas Morning News
"Samba music and its allure beats beneath this winding and sinuous tale of ambition, memory, and identity…Peebles' detailed and atmospheric story is cinematic in scope, panoramic in view, and lyrical in tone." –Kirkus, STARRED review
"A sweeping, cinematic and thoroughly engrossing tale about an eduring friendship and the story of samba. . .[An] unforgettable novel."—BookPage
"This epic novel will transport you to places as far-flung as Brazil’s heyday of samba and Los Angeles’ Golden Age of Hollywood. But what will keep you reading is Frances de Pontes Peebles' description of a friendship that bridged socioeconomic classes during their youths, and shifted and persisted throughout the girls’ lives…One a singer and the other a songwriter, they’ll chart each other’s paths towards fame, a journey laced with treachery and excitement." –Refinery29
"Frances de Pontes Peebles’ tender novel follows this unlikely friendship and the jealousy and rivalry that come with their pursuit of fame." –Real Simple
"Peebles does a marvelous job of evoking the world of samba, which forms the backdrop to the complicated relationship the two women share. Readers…will be rewarded with complex characters and a well-realized setting." –Booklist
"Peebles presents a captivating…portrait of friendship…[the book’s] reflections on love, music, envy, and loyalty ache with feeling, and a hint of mystery surrounding the central relationship’s dissolution will keep readers intrigued until the end." –Publishers Weekly
"Although this novel is set during the 1930s in Brazil, the tale between two friends remains timeless...Each page is as intoxicating as the characters themselves; the perfect read for a long weekend or day off." –Fashion Week Online
"A soaring fusion of emotion, intense drama, and the compelling rhythms of Brazilian music, The Air You Breathe belongs to the special category of historical novels that chronicle entire lives – and it does so in enthralling fashion…Dores narrates in a voice as lyrical and achingly passionate as the sambas she writes…The novel is an intoxicating performance itself, not to be missed by anyone wanting to be wrapped up in a well-told story." –Historical Novel Society
"A masterfully choreographed saga of friendship, envy, sacrifice and love—as soulful, layered, and intoxicating as the samba that reverberates from the page." –Georgia Hunter, New York Times-bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
"The Air You Breathe is that kind of fairy tale where the curse is that your dreams come true, and keep coming true, and you have to survive it for the rest of your life. Two girls run after their dreams of samba, stardom, friendship, and art, and the result is this glittering, mesmerizing triumph of a novel." –Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
"A glittering, beautiful story full of romance and intrigue and tragedy… hard to put down." –Anton DiSclafani, New York Times-bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
"I was captivated by this narrator's voice—wise with years of secrets, disappointments, and burning proximity to so much heat and light. And what a story she has to tell: an aching reminiscence of lives entwined by music, friendship, and longing. Vivid and unforgettable."
–Laura Moriarty, New York Times-bestselling author of The Chaperone
"Prepare to lose yourself in this sweeping, lush novel about two girls in 1920s Brazil brought together by circumstance and kept together by love—of song, of success, and, in the end, of each other. As rich and complex and moving as music itself." –Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
"Sweeps you up like a fairytale, and although the characters are deep and real, the story keeps its breathless magic to the end, with transformations and journeys and bonds as entrancing as Graça and Dores themselves. An ambitious and consuming novel." –Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
"A luxuriant, lovely, utterly delicious book. It will transport you to a world that is half-magical, half-historical, deeply familiar, and wholly new. I couldn't put it down." –Abby Geni, author of The Lightkeepers