Review: Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler

For fans of Chemistry and Normal People: A mesmerizing and witty debut novel about a young woman growing up between two disparate cultures, and the singular identity she finds along the way

But where are you really from? 

When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.

In Stubborn Archivist, a young British Brazilian woman from South London navigates growing up between two cultures and into a fuller understanding of her body, relying on signposts such as history, family conversation, and the eyes of the women who have shaped her—her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Our stubborn archivist takes us through first love and loss, losing and finding home, trauma and healing, and various awakenings of sexuality and identity. Shot through the novel are the narrator’s trips to Brazil, sometimes alone, often with family, where she accesses a different side of herself—one, she begins to realize, that is as much of who she is as anything else.

A hypnotic and bold debut, Stubborn Archivist is as singular as its narrator; a novel you won’t soon forget

– Goodreads blurb


What is Stubborn Archivist about?

This book is ultimately about a family. Two daughters of a wealthy Brazilian family have, at different points, moved to London for education and for love. There, Isadora marries and has a daughter raised in London but with half of her heart in Brazil. The moving pieces of this family form that child’s life, where she is more from Brazil in England but more from England in Brazil.

Genre: Literary Fiction?

I don’t really know how to define the genre of this book, it’s honestly something different from what I’ve read before.

Tropes: Multiple Narratives Collected

As mentioned above, this book is less about a single character and more the narratives of an entire family, collected through snippets of perspective and conversation. Some of these sections read like reflections, being told later in life, and others seem to take place more in the moment.

Plot: Different Stories, Same Path

Something I found really fascinating about this book was the way the women of the family seem to follow the same paths to get to different places. Specifically this convergence takes place in South London and Brazil, but the way each woman in the family interacts with these two locations is entirely different.

The Good

I really enjoyed the different perspectives, the beautiful narrative styles, and the interesting approach to the prose. From a mechanics standpoint this book is fascinating for the way it works, and the story is almost secondary to that in my opinion.

The Okay

I really wish there was more exploration of the circumstances in which Isadora and Ana Paula left Brazil. They’re hinted at, almost touched on in a few places, but then left behind. This didn’t feel forced because the characters themselves don’t seem like the types to linger on these facts, but I kept getting hooked on storylines that went nowhere.

The Bad

You may have noticed that this review is strangely short. Despite rating this book highly (four stars) and genuinely enjoying it, I’m finding it difficult to really pull out details to discuss. The more I think about this book, the more I realize it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. It was enjoyable, a few things stood out, but ultimately it blended together into a blurred memory for me.

Final Thoughts

I think this is a beautifully written, interesting story with a lot of fun moving parts. I primarily enjoyed it for the unique writing style and the way the author constructed the story. The way the author broke the rules of fiction was clever and well done, and I think this book demonstrates a mastery over the basic skills of creative writing. The plot is a bit more “slice of life” than I usually enjoy, but the characters were enjoyable and fun to read about so I was still able to go along with the story easily. I do wish some things had been more explained or explored, but ultimately this desire didn’t ruin the reading experience for me.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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