I have recently discovered some books that you absolutely need to know!
They are by a contemporary Italian writer named Donatella Di Pietrantonio and I am sure that – once you know her – you will love her work as much as I do.
She has written three books so far: I have read two of them in the last couple of weeks and I loved them so much that I immediately wanted to share such love with you!
As I said, I am sure you will like her work because the stories she writes are really engaging and powerful, full of emotions and strong feelings. Her novels are not exactly light readings – at least the two I have read – as they carry a lot of pain with them, but they are full of life as well and really hook you up.
Moreover, I think they can be a perfect read for someone interested in the Italian culture because they are a way to know the contemporary Italian literature, of which Donatella Di Pietrantonio is an important representative, and also because all her novels are set in Abruzzo, a little-known Italian region, which deserves a lot more attention.
If you can’t read Italian, her first two novels are available in English and German as well, while the most recent one is available in Italian only, but I have no doubts it will be translated soon as it was incredibly successful here in Italy and even won the Premio Campiello 2017, one of the most important Italian literary prizes.*
It is actually this last novel, titled L’Arminuta, which first caught my attention.
As you probably already know, I use Instagram a real lot. I use it as a daily injection of beauty, obviously, but also as a way to be inspired and informed on the latest trends in all kinds of areas. I follow a lot of book bloggers and L’Arminuta kept coming up in their feed.
I was attracted by the cover of the book, which is undoubtedly beautiful, but also by the fact that all reviews were enthusiastic. Everybody was saying amazing things about the novel, so I went out and bought the book. I started reading it and I was immediately conquered by the story, so much so that I finished the book in a couple of days.
L’Arminuta (a word which means “the one who comes back”, in the Abruzzese dialect) tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who is adopted but all of a sudden is sent back to her family of origin. The book begins with the girl who finds herself knocking at an unknown door and is welcomed by her sister Adriana, undoubtedly one of the best characters in the novel.
The Arminuta has lived all her life in a well-off family and now finds herself in a poor household, with almost no food to eat, forced to share her bed with her sister. She begins living a hard life but what makes it harder is the strong pain she feels for being rejected by whom she thought was her mother – something she’ll never recover from.
The novel is really powerful and not only tells the story of l’Arminuta but also depicts life in a poor countryside area, where people had almost no chance of improving their lives because making ends meet was actually the most important thing.
Such a hard life makes people harsh but there is also some spark of tenderness, here and there, occasionally. The book is a story of pain, basically, but also of love – especially the one between the two sisters – of hardship and of hope. I am sure you will love it!
I liked it so much that I immediately did some research to find other books by the same author. She has written two other novels, Mia madre è un fiume (My mother is a river) and Bella Mia. The first one tells the story of a mother and a daughter: the mother is losing their memory and her daughter tells her the story of her life. The second one, instead, is about a family that is broken after the earthquake that took place in L’Aquila in 2009.
I could only find Mia madre è un fiume, so I bought it and immediately started reading. Well, what can I say? Another incredibly powerful and moving story, which this time was a bit closer to home for me because my mother is getting older and older every day and the fear of losing her never leaves me. It was quite hard for me to read it, but I loved it anyway.
This book tells the story of Esperia: she falls prey to dementia and is assisted by her daughter, who starts telling her the story of her family.
So day after day we get to know all the characters in the family, beginning with Fioravante, Esperia’s father, a strong and quite controversial figure. We experience life as it was decades ago in countryside Abruzzo, a farming rural area where daily life was made of hard work and fatigue. We see how a place and a territory can shape people and characters, making them harsh and dry.
But we also learn about the difficult relationship between Esperia and her daughter, who fights an internal battle between wanting to care for her mother and at the same time wanting to push her away because Esperia didn’t care for her when she was a baby. The one between them is a “love gone wrong from the start”, as the daughter says, and the book is also a way to reflect on mother and daughter’s relationships.
I still have to read Bella Mia, but a lot of people told me it’s really good. So I definitely recommend this author to you, I am sure you will not be disappointed!
By the way, is there some Italian book you’ve loved and you’d like to recommend me?
* 2019 Update: The book has been translated into English and it can be found under the title A Girl Returned.
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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.