Heliopolis, By James Scudamore

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The Independent Culture

"Heliopolis" means "sun city" of course, but also describes a city in which the insulated rich get from place to place by helicopter, never so much as setting a foot in the dangerous streets below.

This novel merits the epithet Dickensian in a number of ways: in its generous anger at injustice and inequality, its attention to the lives of the poor, and its relish for food (every chapter is named after something edible). Its flawed hero, Ludo, was born in a favela of Sao Paolo but adopted as a baby and brought up by a rich family.

Having reached man's estate, he works for an advertising firm selling unnecessary products to the underclass from which he came. Ludo is unhappy in his work and unhappy at being embroiled in an adulterous affair with his adoptive sister. The plot, which has a Dickensian reliance on coincidence, eventually deposits Ludo back in the favela he came from and reveals the secret of his birth. But, as with Dickens, you don't read this for the plot, but for the power of the writing, the descriptions that fizz off the page, and the lust for life.

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