Zephyr Frank's engaging and original new book, Reading Rio de Janeiro: Literature and Society in the Nineteenth Century, sheds new light on the relationship between literature and history but does not fit easily into either genre. Part literary history, part literary analysis, and part study of nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, the book challenges conventional divisions between history and literature. Frank encourages us to see the novels that he reads—Sonhos d'ouro by José de Alencar, Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, and O coruja by Aluísio Azevedo—as examples of the bildungsroman, or the educational, coming-of-age novel. He argues that all three of the novelists used their fiction to address the same problem: the integration of the individual into society at a time when Rio de Janeiro, if not Brazil as a whole, was undergoing profound social...

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