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Publisher's Summary

"[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.

©2018 Frances de Pontes Peebles (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"[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)

“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)

What listeners say about The Air You Breathe

Average Customer Ratings
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Review of The Air You Breathe

A very engrossing story. It takes you to another time, country and way of life. It’s a story full of everything. Narrator’s voice is rich and engaging.

4 people found this helpful

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I tried to like it

This book needed a better editor...it went on and on and on. The two women were not likeable. One a spoiled manipulative brat and the other exceedingly violent. It started out w/promise and fizzled quickly. I am looking at all the good reviews this book has received and I have no idea why.

2 people found this helpful

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Speed up narration and enjoy much more

The reader over-emphasizes every line so that each note is high drama. She improves markedly about half way through. But I also discovered that putting the narration on 1.5 speed worked to decrease the melodrama somehow. Kind of amazing actually. Once the speed went up, the dramatic pauses quit wrecking a wonderfully complex story of love and art.

9 people found this helpful

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Fiction...non-fiction

I originally enjoyed this book thoroughly although I found it to be too long. Upon further understanding I ended up getting extremely frustrated. What should have been fiction is loosely based on Carmen Miranda's life. She creates these characters based off real people. If you wanted to create a fictional character like Doris, why alter the facts on Miranda's life? By using so many real details she just made me irrate to have to then research about the real person. The 3 main characters are based on real people. Names of bands and things that happened are just altered.. Leaving you with inaccurate information.

1 person found this helpful

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Lyrical

Stunning masterpiece! How can words do justice to complex, soul-stirring music, & depth of characters capture your heart? This book is a miracle of that genius.

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderfully written and narrated!

As I listened to this wonderful book I was transformed to another century in another culture. The story was interesting, uncomfortable, happy and tragic. What more could a reader want? I did want one more thing—to hear the songs sung instead of the words spoken. That would have been the icing on a memorable cake. Brava Ms. de Pontes Peebles and Ms. Mozo!!!

1 person found this helpful

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Well written and well performed

Even though the book was well written and performed, I only marginally enjoyed the book simply because it didn't really strike a chord (no pun intended) with me. That's not to say it won't with others, and that's why I'm giving it points for being well written and well performed.

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Read like a memoir

Gripping saga of the enduring, mostly painful and definitely hard to watch friendship between two women. Beginning in Brazil in the 30’s, one woman is a rich sugar baron’s daughter, and the other is a servant. Their lives are fraught with struggles. Struggles to be loved. To belong. To be seen. And heard. And wanted. They love one another, are jealous of one another and cannot live without the other.
We follow their lives as one becomes a famous samba singer and the other is behind the scenes. The stories of samba and the people who made it what it became are so realistic that several times I stopped to Google the characters to see if they were real.
Heartbreaking, gut wrenching and filled with grit. Definitely worth a read.

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Not a single likable character…

The narrator with a slight bump up on the reading speed was wonderful and was the only aspect of the book that kept me going.
This book could have been 6 hours shorter without missing a nuance of storyline. The characters are 100% unlikable. If any have even one redeeming characteristic than it is hidden well. These characters are definitely brought to life in the storytelling, by means of characters you love to hate, but i would cross the street to avoid having to speak with any and every one of these self indulgent, cruel, or ruthless characters. And in a form reflecting a mindset still existing today, great riches (in this case - musically deserved), come to those who stomp over/on others without reverence to the world outside their own self preservation.

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enraptured from start to finish

expertly wound story that hints at the writers knowledge of the outcome of her story but takes you step by step into her history so that all is understood and empathize with along her journey. The reader adds just the right amount of emotion and pronunciation to give the story depth & flair. 5 🌟s and highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-12-20

Love this book

I loved the story of friendship and all it’s complications. The narrator was amazing. Was sad when the story ended.