Let me first tell you that I didn’t like this book that much.
As you may know, I am always on the hunt for good novels set in Italy to help you enrich your knowledge of Italian literature and maybe make you dream about Italy a little bit.
One important thing for me is that those books need to be available in English too, because this gives the opportunity to people who are not fluent in Italian to appreciate Italian literature and learn more about the culture of my country.
Since most of my favorite Italian books are not available in English, I select the books to be featured here mainly by googling them. I look for Italian novels translated into English, I check the plot or the topic to see if they seem interesting to me and then I read them.
Well, this book seemed very promising. Divorare il cielo (you can find it as Heaven and Earth in English) is set in Apulia and tells the story of the difficult friendship of four kids who are forced to grow up way too early and whose lives are haunted forever by what happens during their teenage years.
Even if the writer of the book is not one of my favorites, I was convinced to go ahead and read the book by the raving reviews the book got these past two years – it was published in 2018 – and by the fact that many of my friends were really enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately, I can’t say it was one of the best books I have read lately.
“So why have you decided to write a post about it?” you may ask.
Because it was a bestseller, here in Italy, its author is one of the most popular Italian novelists and many people who read the book loved it. Books are a very personal thing, so I didn’t want my negative experience to spoil you of a good read. I want to give you a general overview of the book, so that you can decide for yourself if it is worth it or not.
As I said, the author of the book is a very famous Italian writer. His debut novel, La solitudine dei numeri primi (The Solitude of Prime Numbers in its English version), was an incredible success. I read the book many years ago but I remember liking it so much that I decided to include it in the selection of contemporary Italian novels I wrote a while ago.
He has written other two books: Il corpo umano (The Human Body), set during the war in Afghanistan, and Il nero e l’argento (Like Family in English), the story of how an ordinary woman, Mrs. A. succumbs to cancer, leaving behind an unexpectedly rich legacy of love. Being a scientist, he has recently written many articles about the pandemic and a book titled Sul contagio (How Contagion Works).
Paolo Giordano is often criticized for writing very depressing books. I have to admit that La solitudine dei numeri primi is definitely an upsetting and painful book, but the author’s way of depicting the characters has made it very absorbing for me. I haven’t read his other books but all of them seem to investigate human sorrow and discomfort.
Divorare il cielo, the book I have just read, also deals with human pain and fear but this is not what made me dislike it. What I didn’t like about the book is the fact that, after a very gripping start, the story becomes more and more surreal and the characters start behaving in incomprehensible – and annoying – ways.
The beginning of the book, though, is really beautiful: it’s late at night and Teresa, a young girl from Torino, is in her room at her grandmother’s house in Apulia. It’s a warm summer night, the windows are open and she hears noises coming from the garden. When she looks out of the window, she sees three kids her age, completely naked, swimming in her pool, in a blissful state of freedom.
She is fascinated by those three kids and does everything she can to become their friend. Their friendship will last for all their teenage years but will then be ruined by some terrible events. For Teresa, in particular, it won’t be just a matter of friendship because she falls in love with one of the guys and spends with him a big part of her youth.
The setting of the book is a masseria, a large farm typical of Apulia, but the Apulian countryside and the clear blue sea close by are also part of the amazing setting of the novel. Nature plays a very big role in this book and it is one of the most fascinating things about it, in my opinion. The plot is unique and definitely absorbing, so it’s definitely an interesting read.
I recommend this book to you if you want to read a riveting story, dream about warm summers in the south, and also if you want to learn more about contemporary Apulian history because it is definitely a big part of the novel as well. If you read the book, I’d really love to hear your opinion!
By the way, have you read Paolo Giordano’s first book, The Solitude of Prime Numbers? What’s your opinion about it?
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