I have a new Italian book to recommend and it’s a really good one!
As you may know, I really love books and I am always reading something. I read all sorts of books but, every now and then, I pick Italian books with one specific purpose: finding good reads for people who are specifically interested in Italian literature or just want to read a book by an Italian author.
I keep the classics out of this selection because they are easier to find and I focus on contemporary authors, making sure that I select books that are translated into English as well. I do so to give the chance to people who can’t read Italian to still enjoy some nice Italian contemporary books.
The book I have picked for today’s blog post is Il ritratto by Ilaria Bernardini, an Italian journalist – she writes for Vogue Italia and Rolling Stone – and writer who lives between Milan and London. She has published eight novels and Il ritratto, which is available in English as The Portrait, is the first novel she has written both in Italian and English.
This is to say that the English version of the book is not a translation yet another book written by the author herself, which makes it quite unique. I picked this book because I have heard a lot of positive reviews and I’ve decided to give it a go. I am glad I did it because I devoured the book in only a few days!
The book tells the story of Valeria Costas, an acclaimed writer who has had a relationship with a married man for more than twenty years. When she gets the news of him dying, she finds an excuse to be with him: she asks Isla, the wife of her lover and a renowned painter, for a portrait.
As Valeria sits for Isla’s painting, the two ladies talk about travels, work, and love, reaching something similar to understanding. Valeria gets to know the family of her lover very well but there is always a certain tension throughout the book: Does the family know who she is? Does his lover know she is in the house? Has Isla accepted to paint her on purpose? These are some of the questions that you keep asking yourself while reading the book.
In the story, there are a lot of flashbacks that take you back to Valeria’s childhood and that are useful to understand more of her life. The book is also set in different locations and I’ve especially liked the stark contrast between gray and rainy London, where the action is taking place in the present, and hot and sunny Rhodes, where Valeria, who is also the narrator of the story, has spent part of her childhood.
I have really enjoyed the book for its unique plot and for the way the story unfolds becoming more and more intense and gripping, page after page. I also loved the fact that Valeria tells about her process of writing and reveals how she is a stealer of stories; everything and everybody can be turned into a story for her and her necessity to tell a story always comes first, even at the risk of exposing people she knows.
Moreover, the characters are quite complex and carefully portrayed. So, I definitely recommend this book if you like suspenseful novels full of mystery but also if you like stories that make you reflect on life, love, personal choices, and family ties.
And now tell me: What is a good Italian contemporary book you’ve read recently? Something interesting to recommend?
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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.