"Italy in Books" - May reviews

Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011! What? You haven't joined yet? No worries, there is time to sign up until the very last day of the year...

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in May (via
this link). I am sure that everyone will find it useful to learn about new and interesting reading ideas - in fact, I suspect that as a result of this challenge my TBR list will expand dangerously!

Whether you know the books that are being discussed or have never heard of them, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the blogs themselves. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not a mere competition, rather an opportunity to share ideas and bond over common interests!

Let's begin!

01. Jose read and reviewed
The Goodbye Kiss by Massimo Carlotto.
02. Barbara read and reviewed
Juliet by Anne Fortier.
03. Maggie read and reviewed
Summer School by Domenica de Rosa.
04. Juliet read and reviewed
The Luxury of Exile by Louis Buss.
05. Scribacchina read and reviewed
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
06. Gretchen read and reviewed
The Italians by Luigi Barzini.
07. Tina read and reviewed
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.
08. Christy read and reviewed
The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace.
09. Patricia read and reviewed
A Child Al Confino by Eric Lamet.
10. Lindy read and reviewed
Poison in the Blood - The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia by M.G. Scarsbrook.
11. Pete read and reviewed
Rubicon by Tom Holland.
12. Dorla read and reviewed
How Italian Food Conquered the World by John F. Mariana.
13. Jeane read La vita quotidiana a Bologna ai tempi di Vasco by Enrico Brizzi. Scroll down to read her review.
14. Lara read I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga. Scroll down to read her review.
15. Lynn read and reviewed
Finding Positano by William James.

Reviews by non bloggers

La vita quotidiana a Bologna ai tempi di Vasco by Enrico Brizzi. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
La vita quotidiana ai tempi di Vasco is a little book which my Boyfriend bought me for Christmas when we were in Bologna. As he is from Emilia Romagna (more specific Romagna) and has this special 'relationship' with Bologna, he answered on reading the back cover description: 'E' vero!'. This is what made him buy me the book, which I enjoyed a lot and gave me now and then little smiles when I linked things with my own experiences.
'Quando incontro qualcuno che scuote la testa e dice che Bologna non e piu quella frizzante e anticonformista di una volta, vorrei domandargli piccato: 'Perché, te si? Hai ancora il sorriso e il cuore leggero di quando avevi vent'anni?'
I love the back cover of this book because it is as my boyfriend said, true. But not only about Bologna. This can be said about all our good old times ... . The description is also the best way to tell what this book is, but I will try to explain it without ruining the feeling I have about it.
The book itselves takes you through the eighties in Bologna, the start of Vasco, going to school and having your first girlfriend while growing up during those hard times which later we will think of as the good times. As I think is always the case, it gives a special feeling to read about something which takes place or is about a place, city, which you know. And even more special is that while I was reading this book, now and then my Romagnolo boyfriend was listening in the same room to Vasco .... perfect atmosphere!

I Malavoglia by Giovanni Verga. Read and reviewed by Lara:

Once again I chose a novel that takes place in the Italian Region where I live, Sicily.
“I Malavoglia” is considered a classic of Italian literature, written by Giovanni Verga, the greatest representative of the literary movement called “verismo”, developed in the late 19th century, and characterized by the use of rural characters and everyday themes, often treated in a tragic manner.
Indeed, the story of the “Malavoglia” family is tragic. In spite of being great workers, the protagonists have been nicknamed “Malavoglia”, that means reluctant, unwilling. They live at the “house by the medlar tree” in a fishermen village, Aci Trezza, beautiful site that can be visited today (the house by the medlar tree has even been transformed in a museum).
The head of the family is the grandfather Padron ‘Ntoni. He lives with his son’s family: Bastianazzo, Padron ‘Ntoni son, is married with Maruzza, nicknamed “la Longa”. They have five children: ‘Ntoni (as the grandfather), Luca, Filomena (called Mena), Alessio (called Alessi) and Rosalia (called Lia).
The family live with the earnings obtained by fishing. They own a small fishing boat, called “la Provvidenza”. This fishing boat, that should bring them luck, given its name (Provvidenza means, in fact, “good luck”) will represent the origin of all family’s troubles.
Everything starts when Padron Ntoni attempts a business and buys a large amount of “lupins”, requested at that time in Sicilian markets. The load of lupins should be carried by boat by Bastianazzo to another town and then sold to make a profit. Unfortunately, Bastianazzo and the lupins are tragically lost during a storm. The family experiences a triple loss: the debt caused by the lupins which were bought on credit, the Providence to repair and the death of Bastianazzo. Who should be the head of the family now? Bastianazzo is dead and Padron Ntoni is too old. The young ‘Ntoni, who had left for the military service, returns to the village of Aci Trezza, but he does not accept the simple life of Aci Trezza society, having seen the splendor outside of his small village. He will not give any support to the precarious economic situation of his family, will turn to alcoholism and go to the prison after a brawl with a love rival.
Luca, the second Bastianazzo’s son dies while fighting at the battle of Lissa (1866). Maruzza, Bastianazzo’s wife, dies of cholera. The family loses their beloved “Casa del Nespolo”, while their reputation worsens until they reach humiliating levels of poverty. Moreover, it comes out that Lia, the youngest niece, has an illicit relationship with the rich Don Michele: when Padron ‘Ntoni hears this rumor, faints, falling to the ground. He has to be recovered to the hospital, and has no much awareness of what is going on. After that, Lia runs away and becomes a prostitute. Mena, because of the shameful situation of her sister, feels that she cannot marry her fiancée Alfio, and decided to remain at home, taking care of her brother Alessi’s children. Alessi, who is a fisherman like his father and his grandpa, with hard work manages to rebuild the family fortunes till they can repurchase the house by the medlar tree.
Now they are again the owners of their house and can move there again, even Padron ‘Ntoni, who is going to be released from the hospital. However, he will not enjoy this last moment of happiness, because he will die the same day he is supposed to come back home.
Why life has been so unfair with this family? Everyone could spontaneously wonder.
Life is never easy and the protagonists of this novel are a clear example of this. At the end the strength of the family will help them to overcome any misfortune obtaining a surrogate of happiness: anyone, not all of them, will be a part of the final equilibrium: not the young ‘Ntoni, for example, who has excluded himself by the family, but only those ones united by the same culture and values.
Verga adopts, when writing, an impersonal narration technique, reproducing some features of Sicilian dialect and constructing a personal language for each of the characters.
The landscape is so deeply Sicilian: the sea is generous, but terrible at the same time; the weather is unstable, sunny and hot as well as stormy and rainy; the house is familiar and comfortable and represents the place where everyone wants to be, safe and sound.

And remember, one May reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of
Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy, courtesy of Glen Grymes Husak. Buona fortuna!


  1. I am pleased to see a list off reviewed books which were not on my list - yea! More to put on the shopping list :-)

  2. Another great selection of reviews this month.


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