One of my favorite Italian books of 2020 has been translated into English and I couldn’t be happier!
I am happy because the English translation of the book means that I can recommend it in this section of my blog. In fact, as you may know if you have been reading my blog for a while, when I recommend an Italian book I always make sure it is available in English too.
It is a way for me to give people who do not read in Italian the chance to enjoy some good Italian books and discover more of Italian literature. It is a pity because many great Italian books are necessarily left out but I want to recommend only books that all my readers can enjoy.
To be able to do so, I regularly check the websites of the main publishing houses that publish Italian books in English and you cannot imagine my surprise when I saw the book I am writing about today! As I said, the book is one of my favorite Italian books of 2020 but it is not a popular book at all.
I bet very few people have read it, here in Italy, and I don’t think it has ever made it to the charts. But that doesn’t matter because I have really enjoyed the book and now you can enjoy it too! As you may easily guess from the title of the post, the book is Nives by Sacha Naspini (published in English by Europa Editions).
I have found this book via one of my favorite podcasts about books (it’s in Italian). When the host recommended the book, I bought it right away because I fell in love with the story. The book tells the story of Nives, a 66-year-old Tuscan lady who has recently lost her husband.
After his husband’s passing and with her daughter living in France, she feels very lonely, so one day she decides to bring her favorite chicken inside the house with her, to keep her company. Even if she feels a bit guilty for replacing her husband with a chicken, she is really happy with her new friend, so much so that she goes mad when, one day, the chicken goes stiff in front of the TV.
She is desperate because she doesn’t want to lose her good friend, and does the only thing she can do: she calls Loriano Bottai, the local veterinarian and an old acquaintance of hers, asking him for help. And that’s exactly here where the real story of the book begins, a story that will surprise you, and shock you, and completely keep you hooked.
The phone call between the two goes on for the whole night and moves from the problem with the chicken to their shared past, revealing secrets and deep wounds that were never healed – and will never do. The phone call will reveal connections and old stories and it is basically a great depiction of rural Italian life in a small village, back in the 60s and 70s.
The story told by this book is incredibly surprising, it is sad and hard but it is also told with great humor and passion. In fact, there are a lot of secrets being revealed but what is especially entertaining for the reader is the way in which those secrets are revealed: you are constantly shocked and amused at the same time.
As Kirkus Reviews perfectly describes it, it is “a slim, sharply pointed knife of a novel”. By the way, I have quoted Kirkus Reviews but avoided linking the article here because it contains a few spoilers and I think that part of the pleasure in reading the novel is really being surprised by the story. So I would recommend not wanting to know more in advance and be open to the surprises along the way.
Finally, the book is really short yet packed with action and turning points and this makes it a perfect summer read!
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If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.