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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Club of Angels

Luis Fernando Verissimo

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To purchase The Club of Angels

Title: The Club of Angels
Author: Luis Fernando Verissimo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 2001)
Length: 135 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: The Club of Angels - US
The Club of Angels - UK
The Club of Angels - Canada
Et mourir de plaisir - France
Der Club der Engel - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B : odd, largely genre-defying mystery, often amusing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Freitag A 8/6/2001 Thomas Wörtche
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2002 Chad W. Post
The Washington Post . 21/7/2002 Alan Ryan

  From the Reviews:
  • "Verissimo treibt mit allem, was artifizieller und engagierter Literatur gleichermaßen heilig ist, Spiel, Spaß und rohen Frohsinn. So entsteht ein heiteres, unterhaltsames und leichthin zu lesendes Bändchen, das von vorne bis hinten mit tückischen kleinen Giftfallen gespickt ist." - Thomas Wörtche, Freitag

  • "The reader eventually does find out about Lucídio’s reasons for wanting to kill off the Beef Stew Club -- revenge against another member -- but that doesn’t answer the question of why these members allow themselves to be poisoned, a question that lends a certain allegorical weight to the novel" - Chad W. Post, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Club of Angels isn't quite a mystery, though it is filled with murder. Daniel tells the tale, and right from the beginning he lets the reader know: Lucídio "is obviously the guilty one, given that he was the cook and everyone died, in one way or another, from what they ate." It is not quite that simple, in the end, but nearly so. Meanwhile, Verissimo packs in a great deal of social satire in this slim volume.
       Daniel is a member of the Beef Stew Club. Get-togethers he and his friends used to have became more formalized and ritualized, leading to the foundation of this club with its monthly meetings in the homes of the members over grand meals of the finest foods. From mere gluttons they were transformed over the years into at least appearing to be gourmets. And the suppers also "turned into rituals of power".
       One member -- Ramos -- died, of AIDS, and after that the club threatened to fall apart. But a new face, Lucídio, appearing as if from nowhere but surprisingly well-informed, livens things up again ... sort of. Lucídio doesn't really want to participate in the suppers, but he offers to cook the meals. This he does -- and very well -- the only drawback being that after every meal someone dies.
       There is always one last portion left as the dinner draws to a close, the favourite food of one of the members, just enough for him to consume. The next day that member is dead. Pretty soon the club-members figure out that this isn't a coincidence -- and yet they can't stop themselves, continuing with the meetings, continuing to allow Lucídio to cook, each, in turn, accepting the final fateful portion.
       The threat of death apparently enhances these already marvelous meals even further. And the club-members are also somehow resigned to their fates. All wealthy, at one time or another, they have also largely failed in life. They have lead largely comfortable, painless lives, but rarely had true success. Certainly Daniel has not. (One of his final ambitions is to adapt stories about a set of lesbian Siamese twins he has been writing "to make them suitable for children", a typical nice little Verissimo touch.)
       The group, too, is only held together loosely now: "All we had in common now was our hunger", Daniel notes. Later he suggests there is a bit more to it: "What we had in common was our hunger and our failure". Their desires are largely base and simple: food, sex. They hardly seem capable of any deep relationships, and they don't even really seem to know each other particularly well, constantly surprised by what they learn (usually at the funerals of their friends).
       It is hard to believe that these meals could continue as one after another after another of the members drop dead, and Verissimo doesn't quite pull off the feat of making it sound truly plausible. But one can almost go along with it. Eventually, the motive and the players also become clearer: there is some King Lear-sparring (apt quotes flying back and forth), and a few more facts are revealed helping to explain things. Dead Ramos (and his lifestyle) also play a role.
       Fortunately, Verissimo also doesn't leave it quite at simply tying together this little murder-mystery, offering a satisfying new turn at the end (that also explains the title).
       The Club of Angels is a small entertainment, but amusing enough.

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The Club of Angels: Reviews: Luis Fernando Verissimo: Other books by Luis Fernando Verissimo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Brazilian author Luis Fernando Verissimo was born in 1936.

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© 2002-2012 the complete review

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