This novel is translated from Italian – I think the first translation I have reviewed on this blog – and I picked it with the intention of broadening the range of books I review.
It is a story about childhood and a loss of innocence. Nine-year old Michele Amitrano narrates a fateful discovery that will alter the way he views the world and stay with him into adulthood.
I thought that this novel achieved one of the most authentic and imaginative children’s voices of several books I have read who use a young narrator. Ammaniti perfectly captures the different personalities of Michele and his group of friends. He explores the fickleness and naivety but also the loyalty and kindness of children. The cruelty of the group bully, Skull (Antonio), and the resilience of his main target Barbara are portrayed particularly well and Michele’s defence of Barbara near the beginning of the novel is an especially touching moment. The sibling relationship between Michele and his younger sister was also well articulated and seemed realistic.
The novel is well written and the story-telling is good – I sped through this short book in a day! The drama builds throughout the novel till its suspenseful denouement. However I felt that the ending let this book down. It seemed very abrupt and I felt like the excitement of the action got a bit carried away. I think that it really needed a better resolution, something that rounded off the interesting themes raised throughout the story. I would like to see the film adaptation of this novel to see what they would do with the ending, as I would imagine that it would not be left on such a cliffhanger.
I enjoyed reading this book but it didn’t leave a lasting impression. It’s good read but there just seemed to be something lacking: I’d give it a 6.5/10