Tereza, who suffers many reversals of fortune before eventually triumphing when she marries her true love Januario, is a heroine who seems almost too good to be true. She is marvellously beautiful, dances the samba to perfection and is an inspiration to poets, painters and sculptors. She is kind and selfless, a teacher of the ignorant and a protector of the downtrodden. In spite of all this she suffers terribly and becomes a seasoned veteran of life’s rough and tumble. She is a woman for the reader to fall madly in love with life itself. Amado has created an earthly angel and her energy, power and resilience come coursing through the book.
Amado’s novel is by no means a realistic novel but nor does it stray into the world of magic realism, except perhaps for Tereza’s ability continually to renew her virginity. It does, however, give a real sense of the colour and vibrancy of life in Salvador de Bahia. It is very much a Brazilian novel but also one that celebrates all of life, even life in its darkest moments. Amado has brought to “Tereza Batista” all his usual charm and wit, cramming the narrative with many adventures and many wry observations on the absurdities and wonders of human existence.