Leda is a middle-aged divorcee who loves her work as an English teacher at the university in Florence. Her grown up daughters are with their father in Canada and she decides to take a holiday on the coast in Southern Italy. She finds an apartment to rent and everyday sets off with her towel and swimming things and works under an umbrella at the beach. Her routine is just as she’d hoped.
But also on the beach are a Neapolitan family who Leda becomes increasingly involved with. What starts as friendship between Leda and the young mother though, begins to unravel the reasons why Leda is not with her daughters and husband and the summer starts to take a menacing and at times, threatening turn.
That Leda feels liberated to be away from her daughters is the starting point for a ‘frank novel of maternal ambivalence’ (The New Yorker), and I liked the way Ferrante talks openly about motherhood. For me Leda’s conflicting feelings over being a mother with a career were the most interesting parts of the book. Her behaviour towards the Neapolitan family and especially Nina and her young daughter Elena I found bizarre and while the feeling of threat was very real and uncomfortable to read I didn’t really have any sympathy for any one. I wouldn’t like to meet any of them on holiday.
On December 13th 1943 at the age of 24 Primo Levi, a chemist from Turin was captured by the Fascist militia and giving his status as an ‘Italian citizen of Jewish race’ was taken via the detention camp at Fossoli to Auschwitz. Of the 650 who arrived the children, the old men and most of the women were ‘swallowed up by the night’. Ninety six men and twenty nine women entered the camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau. The rest were sent to the gas chamber, only 3 made the return journey home. The story of his journey home is told in The Truce.
Continue reading “If This Is A Man”
It’s summer in Turin in the 1930’s and 16 year old Ginia is ready for adventure. Parentless, she works in a dressmakers, loves to laugh and dance and lives with her older brother, taking care of him and their apartment.
But then she is befriended by Amelia an artists model, and over the summer becomes involved with her older bohemian set that includes Guido and love!
The cover blurb in my Penguin copy says that ‘It’s the start of a desperate love affair, charged with false hope and overwhelming passion’, which makes it all sound rather melodramatic; when the clever thing about The Beautiful Summer, is that within 100 pages of very little drama Cesare Pavese has us completely believing in the confusion Ginia is going through.
Continue reading “The Beautiful Summer”
It’s 1860 and Fabrizio, Prince of Salina rules over thousands of acres, hundreds of people, his wife and seven children. But when Garibaldi lands in Sicily and is hailed a hero and liberator by the people, it is clear that the old way of life is changing.
Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa is writing about his great grandfather, by following the prince to his death in 1883 we get a glimpse of a Sicilian nobleman at a moment of crisis and the degeneration of his family until almost collapse in 1910. Continue reading “The Leopard”