Hello, lovely people! I have just wrapped up my first year of library school, and after breakdowns, meditation sessions, mindful breathing, yoga, and lots of red wine, I am alive. Barely. It’s still quite early, but I am already indulging in summer vibes. I remember last year I was lamenting my circumstances having just taken a job, instead of traveling. Two weeks in I wanted to quit my job after realizing I would have to wait a year before I could ask for vacation time. It was tragic. Well, I just wrapped up a year at the job, and I did take a small vacation before the year, and now I am using some much deserved vacation time. I am headed to La Bella Italia! I’ve been before, but this time around I am not a broke unemployed undergrad with some shaky Italian under my belt. This time I am a slightly less book graduate student who is using her paid time off from work. Adulthood isn’t so bad most of the time. Last time I also only got to travel through Rome, and this time I’ll be hitting up a few more cities, and my Italian is…adequate, I am hoping at least. I have been studying pretty much everyday since I booked the trips six months ago, so it better be adequate.
Aside from researching all the bookish sites I plan on visiting, the food, transportation, and the general gorgeousness of the country, I’ve been reading as much Italian authors as I can get my hands on. Italian translations are not that east to come by, at least not in the U.S. I’ve found. Which is sad because the ones that I have found, have been gems. If you are at all interested in books by Italian authors, or books set in Italy, here are the three best ones I’ve read so far.
Me, You by Erri De Luca
Me, You takes place in a small island off the coast of Naples. It’s inhabitants are still reeling from the effects of Word War II, a topic that is has become a taboo for many Italians, especially the men. The unnamed narrator is visiting the island for the summer, and he becomes engrossed in the quite fishing life of his Uncle. He is very nostalgic and curious for the past he didn’t live. Through his curiosity we learn what it was like for Italian men who fought in World War II, and their feelings about what they did and didn’t do. The novel is also a quite love story as the boy soon meets and falls in love with a Jewish girl who recounts her own experience during the war. The unnamed character struggles with dealing with the present and the past as they seem to converge at such a transformative time in his life. His mediations about life, love, and war stayed with me for days. Erri de Luca’s prose is so vivid and lush. I felt transported to this small island and its marriage to the sea.
Léonie by Sveva Casati Modignani
I have a thing for rich people problem novels especially when they’re multi- generational. Léonie follows the Cantoni family, a Milanese family who made its fortune by manufactoring faucets. The family is successful and on the surface they appear to have it all, however, that is far from the truth. The family members each harbor their resentments and their secrets which slowly come to light as Léonie, the wife of Guido, the Cantoni family heir, slowly unravels them all. However, Léonie harbors secrets of her own, such as her once a year disappearance to a small hotel on the shores of Lake Como… This often felt like a soap opera, but it was great! I loved the twist and turns, discovering they whys and hows of some of the family members secrets, and the unexpected ending. Also, the insight into Italian culture and life from the rich to the poor was insightful.
Beautiful Ruins be Jess Waters
(Not an Italian author, but the book is partially set in Italy, and has Italian culture and language references.) I Initially read it for the Italian bit, but I enjoyed the story as a whole. Jess Waters weaves the Italian coastline with the classic golden Era Hollywood and new era Hollywood. It has dry humor, and twist, and celebrity cameos. It was such a joy to read, and I loved how I barely needed to consult my Italian dictionary!
Books on deck:
I Hadn’t Understood by Diego De Silva
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca
All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginburg
I’m hoping to get to these before the trip, so perhaps I’ll do a follow up post about these.
I’ve also been watching Italian movies, if you’re at all interested I could do a second post talking about my favorites! And, please let me know of any Italian authors or books that are set in Italy that I’ve missed.
Thanks for reading! Ciao 🙂