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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Road to Lagoa Santa

by
Henrik Stangerup


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Road to Lagoa Santa



Title: The Road to Lagoa Santa
Author: Henrik Stangerup
Genre: Novel
Written: 1981 (Eng. 1984)
Length: 284 pages
Original in: Danish
Availability: The Road to Lagoa Santa - US
The Road to Lagoa Santa - UK
The Road to Lagoa Santa - Canada
Lagoa Santa - France
Der Weg nach Lagoa Santa - Deutschland
  • Danish title: Vejen til Lagoa Santa
  • Translated by Barbara Bluestone

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting and intense but almost too biographical

See our review for fuller assessment.



The complete review's Review:

       The Road to Lagoa Santa is closely based on the life of Peter Wilhelm Lund, a Danish scientist who did significant work in Brazil in the 19th century. He was one of many scientists exploring Brazil at the time, though his focus was on the fossil record as well as current plant and animal life, and he did not travel as far and wide as many others. Nevertheless, he made significant contributions as he worked on his evolving theory of evolution, adapting it according to his findings.
       One of the reasons Lund is an interesting character is because he seemed to simply give up in mid-life, basically abandoning his work and just getting by for the last decades of his life. Stangerup begins the book with the break that pushed him over the edge, before then proceeding in chronological fashion, building up towards that point again (with the decades after dealt with fairly quickly afterwards).
       It's an interesting and colourful story, the young Dane who ventures abroad, the clash of cultures (the complete provincialism and excesses found in Brazil, compared to cultured Denmark and Europe), as well as his scientific struggles as he tries to fit his findings to his beliefs. The hardship of working in Brazil is nicely captured, as is Lund's drive and obsession. There's some wonderful imagery here, from the house practically layered in bones that Lund has collected to the forces of nature when he ventures out into it.
       Human interaction is also complicated here; Lund is pretty much the loner (though he does team up with Brandt, who records the many findings in pictures) and social interaction here is more obviously strange than even back home. The locals obsessively observe his strange doings, while the Europeans are (genereally unpleasantly) quirky in their own ways. Lund is hardly part of any community -- and at this distance, only intermittently involved in the scientific community that remains centred in Europe.
       The Road to Lagoa Santa reads quite well: Stangerup offes good adventure as well as a keen and convincing character portrait. But the book almost feels bound by biography, confines which Stangerup challenges but isn't willing to break. In its detailed precision one almost wonders why he didn't opt for straightforward biography, but it's the creative embellishment that does make the book; one simply wishes he had unleashed much more of it.

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Links:

Reviews: Other books by Henrik Stangerup under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Danish author Henrik Stangerup lived 1937 to 1998.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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