I have read a really good book, recently.
As you may already know if you have read other posts of the Books about Italy section of this blog, I really like reading and I strongly believe that literature is an amazing way to dive deeper into the culture of a country.
This is why I am always on the hunt for good Italian books to recommend to you. Unfortunately, the task is not always very easy because I have decided to select titles that have an English translation too and this narrows the choice quite a bit.
Sometimes I am not that lucky and I get to read books that are not exactly great – or that I wouldn’t recommend to a friend – but some other times things go well and I find little gems. This is precisely what happened today.
I have decided to read the book I am writing about today because a student of mine recommended it to me. She was so enthusiastic about it that, once I made sure it was available in English as well, I purchased it immediately. And my student was right: it is a really great read!
The book I am talking about is Mal di pietre by Milena Agus, which is available in English as From The Land of the Moon. The novel was first published in Italian in 2006 and then translated into English by Ann Goldstein in 2011. It is also quite famous in France because it was made into a movie starring Marion Cotillard.
The story is quite simple: the narrator writes about the life of her grandmother, a Sardinian lady born in 1910. The nonna was born in the countryside of Sardinia and moved to Cagliari in 1943 to marry a man chosen for her by her family, since she “couldn’t find” a man who loved her.
This is a common tale in pre and post-war Italy but what makes it unique is the character of the nonna: a free-spirited, romantic, and eccentric girl who would never hide her feelings, so much so that she was considered mad by her own family and the small rural community where she lived.
Her unique personality, the choices she makes, and how she decides to live her life make the story incredibly interesting and definitely fascinating. At times, I wondered if the story was actually true but then I said to myself that trueness is not always important, when such a captivating story is told.
Another fascinating aspect of the book is the Sardinian scenery. The dazzling light in Cagliari, the deep blue Mediterranean sea, and the rugged mountains of the inland definitely play a very important role in the book. The narrator is so good at describing the scenery that you could really feel the Sardinian sun on your skin while reading the book.
Yet the author has a great talent for describing the scenery because the other locations in the book are described in a very powerful way as well. So the places where the action is set play a very important role in the book, they work as characters too. Also, the ending is also quite surprising and gives the book a whole new meaning. Basically, I loved everything about it!
The book is quite short, a bit more than 100 pages long, and I was amazed at how much the author was able to achieve in such a short novella. There are so many themes inside the book (love, madness, sense of self, family rules, and many more) and they are all very carefully treated, in a very concise yet accurate way. No word is wasted, if you see what I mean.
As I said, the book is concise and the language is not too difficult, so I would recommend the Italian version if you are familiar with reading in Italian.
By the way, what is the first book you read in Italian? Was it easy for you?
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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 to, or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.