Tag Archives: Italy

** A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

The heroine of A Girl Returned is suddenly thrust into a new family, which turns out to be the biological family from which she had been adopted, but she did not even know she was adopted. From one day to the next, she move from a comfortable life to a life scrabble existence, sharing a bed with a younger sister since there is literally no place for her, and scrounging for information about her adoptive mother, who seems to have disappeared entirely, and the reasons why her biological parents allowed her (entirely informal) adoption. The mood of the book reminded me strongly of the Ellena Ferrante series (perhaps because it has the same translator), but I liked it much more in that it focused on the emotions of the two girls (the adopted one and her sister) more than the events of their life.

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*** The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna

Do we need yet another family saga of Italian immigrants to the US? With The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, the answer is, surprisingly, yes! The heroine, Stella Fortuna, journeys from dirt-poor in Calabria to considerably less poor in the factories of Connecticut, but always in strong conflict with her brutal father, and various other brutal men around her. It’s a wonderful story of a woman who makes the best of what life gave her.

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* In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey

The central character In the Garden of the Fugitives is a man who uses his fortune to buy women, under the guise of scholarships and fellowships to pursue their creative endeavors. Through correspondence, years later, with one of his almost-caught victim and beneficiary we hear about his story, his wife’s, and that of the beneficiary. There are many interesting tidbits in the book, including about archeological practices in Pompeii and white guilt in South Africa, but I found the story plodding and curiously cliche-bound, even if, or perhaps because of its globe-trotting, travelogue feel.

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** The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon

Fancy a trip to Venice? The Temptation of Forgiveness gives the reader a reasonably satisfying plot with lots of local color — so much that the book is more a travelogue than a mystery. It’s the 27th installment in the series, so past readers must have enjoyed the trips very much! Beyond the Venetian stories, the scenario is quite basic, but with complex main characters who generously share their musings about their private concerns.

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*** The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

In the 44 Scotland Street series, The Importance of Being Seven is titled for Bertie, who is indeed about to turn seven and still trying to escape the domination of his controlling mother (he does manage to bring his baby brother to school, unassisted, in this episode!). But it also stars his old teacher, now married, whose first pregnancy ultrasound brings many blessings, and a remarkable holiday in Tuscany by a group of friends, who bears a suspicious but entirely charming resemblance to My Italian Bulldozer.

 

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** Tears of Salt by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

The first author of Tears of Salt: A Doctor’s Story is a physician on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, where many migrants from Africa arrive, some healthy and others almost or completely dead, as they try to reach Europe. He gets to treat the sick and autopsy the dead, and often sees the children, relatives, and friends of the people he so recently pronounced dead. It’s not an easy life, and it’s not an easy story. The solution to the problem cannot be as simple as what he seems to suggest (open the border) and at the same time the personal stories are heart-wrenching.

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*** My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith must have given himself a nice trip to a lovely Tuscan trip to prepare to write My Italian Bulldozer. Good for him (and considering how fast he writes, he may written the whole thing from a lovely pensione in Montalcino, which he calls Fiore in the book), and good for us, since the story is delightful, starring a depressed Scottish writer and the unexpected bulldozer with which he ends up driving from the airport to said pensione. He will find an ambitious winemaker, trouble with his ex-girlfriend, and unexplained uses for the bulldozer. It’s fun and unpretentious, unlike other Tuscan travelogues.

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