Saturday, March 30, 2013
Book Review - Swimming To Elba
Not many 27-year-olds publish a novel that sells 400,000 copies at home (Italy), with rights sold in twenty languages, wins second place in Italy’s most prestigious literary contest, the Premio Strega, and wins praise around the world. Even fewer 27-year-olds do this by using a paradigm-shifting understanding of working-class youth in Italy today. And no one has published a novel so graphic in its pleasures, so defiant in its message, as Silvia Avallone’s SWIMMING TO ELBA (Penguin; On-Sale: April 30, 2013; ISBN: 978-0-143-12365-1; $16.00; originally published as Acciaio in Italy in 2010).
SWIMMING TO ELBA describes a friendship between two young girls who live in the saddest part of a sad Italian town whose economy is defined by a failing steel mill. Both too beautiful for their own good, they realize quickly that their only ticket out is through their sexuality. Their dreams—not to mention the dreams of the friends, family and ever-present boys who love them—take the girls much further than they expect.
Silvia Avallone came of age in a small town exactly like the one in the book, and her fiery, evocative prose reminds us that her message is personal: it’s a tough story with a lot of heart. The book is graphic in its sexual content, and it’s also frank about the realities of life in working-class Italy today, revealing the hypocrisy of the Leftist, Socialist dream of a happy proletariat. This novel became a lightning rod for political discussion in Italy and has been covered with fervor all over Europe. It’s been called Italy’s Catcher in the Rye, and readers who fell for another Premio Strega winner, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, will find the same flawless prose and compelling characters here. Swimming to Elba is a literary masterpiece, and an international event.
About the Author
Silvia Avallone is a poet and novelist. This first novel won second place in the 2010 Premio Strega, and rights have been sold in twenty languages. She lives in Bologna, Italy.
My Take on the Book
This the book is definitely a coming-of-age story that allows you to explore the relationship between Anna and Francesca but also between them and the world around them. The author paints the picture of a town that is going through much upheaval and you feel for the girls as you see a world ridden with drug abuse and crime. There were times that the book made me feel a bit goal down into the depths of depression that you could only guess that the main characters felt, and seeing how the characters themselves dealt with this made me also feel uneasy, especially as a parent. This was a powerful book to read and a difficult book to explore but definitely one in which you are drawn in and one in which you will want to share with others in the end.
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