Guilt and the desire to be free in a poignantly beautiful novel.
After the extraordinary success of The Children’s Train, Viola Ardone returns with an intense coming-of-age story. That of a girl who wants to be free in an age when being born a woman is a condemnation. An enchanting female character who is impossible not to love. A relationship between father and daughter observed with a delicacy and depth that move.
“I do not know if I am in favor of marriage. That’s why in the street I always go running: the breath of males is like the breath of a bellows that has hands and can reach to touch the flesh.”
It is 1960, Oliva Denaro is fifteen years old, she lives in a small town in Sicily, and from an early age she knows-her mother obsessively repeats it to her-that “the female is a jug, whoever breaks it gets it.” She likes to study and learn difficult words, to run “at the drop of a hat,” to secretly copy in a notebook the faces of movie stars (even though the movies she cannot go to see, because they “get the crickets in her head”), to look for snails with her father, to throw stones with a slingshot at those who taunt her friend Saro. On the other hand, she does not like the idea of having “the marquis,” because from then on she will not be able to do these things, and she will have to defend herself against the males in order to get to the wedding intact. When the tacit system of female oppression in which she lives forces her to accept abuse, Oliva rebels and opposes her own right to choose, paying the price for that no. Viola Ardone knows how to beautifully transform History into story by telling the contradictions of love, between fathers and daughters, between mothers and daughters, and the ambiguity of desire, which both flatters and frightens, especially if it is imposed by force. Her writing plumbs the violence of social roles, which affects everyone, including men. If Oliva Denaro is an unforgettable character, her silent father, who lets her decide, with all the bewilderment that having to decide implies for her, is one of the most touching male figures in recent Italian fiction.