Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Book review: Commonwealth - A. Patchett

“He was making an effort to write a sermon in his head for the follow Sunday. He wanted to tell the congregation, the few who were not presently in the Keatings’ backyard, how the miracle of loaves and fishes had been enacted here today, but he couldn’t find a way to wring enough booze out of the narrative.”

There are simple family saga stories that really engage you, even if they are set in a completely different location and if whatever happens there will never happen to you. But you feel you are there, you live with the characters, your emotions follow the flow of theirs in such a way that mesmerize me every and each time. The power of books.
To me, it generally happens with American contemporary novels based on families, where the story line is quite simple yet dramatic, where there is suffering and loss, yet joy and hope.
And Commonwealth is one of those novels that had me glued in from the very beginning to the last word. It is a story about brotherhood and about families, it is the story of a group of kids who are somehow "forced" to grow up together, it is the story of three marriages, two that falls apart to create a new one which brings two family, six kids as a big family. But it is also the narration of the individual lives of the character from when they were little children until their older age. 
It is a book of summers of freedom at the lakeside, of California and Virginia, of mischievousness and tragedy, of a book inside the book.
Fix and Beverly have two daughters, he is a policeman, she is very beautiful, she leaves him for a lawyer who leaves his wife and four kids behind. In summer all the kids get together in Virginia, but one summer a tragedy happens and the oldest kid dies. Forward twenty years later, one of those kids - Franny, now in her late twenties meet a famous author and they fall in love and he writes a novel based on Franny's families story. Forward other twenty years later, Fix is very ill, his daughters get together to spend time with him and listen to all his stories. 
My favourite scene has to be the opening one: Beverly and Fix throw a christening party for baby Franny and then Bret arrives uninvited with a bottle of gin and magically oranges appears from everywhere to make cocktails. 
It is not a lighthearted novel, yet it never gives you the suffocating sensation of tragedy. Life is a mess, the two families are a mess, the single individuals are a mess, and yet you go through it. 

"Life ... was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself."
I truly enjoyed Ann Patchett's writing style, swift and clever and never boring. The novel made me think a bit of We were never ourselves by Matthew Thomas, even if there are massive differences between the two, or A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler.

In summary, I really enjoyed Commonwealth and I want to read other books from the same author as in both plot and writing style she really ticks all the boxes for me! 
Overall rating:  8  Plot: 8    Writing style: 8     Cover: 2

Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages: 336
Publication year: 2016

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. 
The Author:
Ann Patchett is the author of seven novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction–Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, What Now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays examining the theme of commitment.Ann Patchett lives in Nashville with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky. She has opened a bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee, Parnassus Books.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: In cold blood - T. Capote

"I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat."

Gosh, how awful! Not the book, the facts described in the book. It is just a horrible story, this poor decent, hard working, well respected family killed in cold blood for not even 50 dollars in the end!
I get why Truman Capote got so fascinated by those murders and those killers to want to write a book about it. It is just unbelievable that two people, yes two "disturbed" people, no doubts, with a bad luggage of stealing, could committee such an atrocious act without any kind of remorse or nightmare at night!
The book itself is the account of what happened, who the family killed was, what the killers background was. There is a long part about their movements to reach the farm and then an account of the killing themselves. The end chapter is about the trial and the subsequent appeal.
It is a chronicle of what happened, well written, quite cold and factual, with some feelings from the various characters in the story in it, but generally it is quite a detached account of events. But the events themselves are so horrible that it becomes addictive to read on and on, to try and understand if they had a motive and what went on in their minds to commit such brutal assassinations.
A good read for the readers that like real crime story and are not too weak in the stomach!

Overall rating: 6,5   Plot: NA   Writing style: 6,5    Cover: 4

Title:In cold blood
Author: Truman Capote
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 352
Publication year: 1965

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics. Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.
The Author:
Truman Garcia Capote born Truman Streckfus Persons, (September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984) was an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor, many of whose short storiesnovelsplays, annonfiction are recognized as literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "nonfiction novel". At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced of Capote novels, stories, and plays.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: Le addizioni femminile - A. Fezzi

"Ogni riferimento a fatti e persone realmente esistenti è puramente casuale.
Tranne i riferimenti a te, che hai sempre sperato che il grande amore della tua vita ritornasse."

Verona e' una bellissima citta', con un sacco di monumenti storici (in primis L'Arena) e di cultura, una movimentata vita notturna e tanti ristoranti e bar. E' una citta' molto frequentata da turisti provenienti un po' da ovunque nel mondo.
Verona e' anche una citta' molto borghese, una sorta di paesello in versione gigante dove tutti conoscono un po' tutti e sanno i fatti di tutti. E' anche una citta' paesello dove le amicizie, che si stringono di solito alle elementari/medie e non cambiano poi piu' di tanto fino alla geriatria, sono importanti e molto strette, cosi' strette che a volte chi non e' nella "cerchia" giusta si sente un po' un outsider.
Detto questo, amo Verona con i suoi pro e contro e adoro tornarci per un weekend lungo e ritrovare lle solite persone, le solite routine, la placida Borgo Trento bondalara dove vivono i miei genitori (e, dove, soprattutto, c'e' il Gelatone che fa un gelato alla stracciatella da urlo!).
Tutto questo per dire che per me Fezzi parte avantaggiato, poiche' scrive romanzi ambientati nella mia Verona, e quindi si becca gia' un paio di punti solo per questo motivo. Non ho trovato nessun altro autore che basa i suoi libri esclusivamente su Verona e su luoghi, usanze in cui mi ritrovo cosi' tanto. Il primo libro di Fezzi - Ho sognato un Negroni - mi ha fatto ridere a crepapelle perche' e' un ritratto cosi' vero della "Verona da bere" che ogni riga mi faceva pensare a qualcuno di mia conoscenza o ad un episodio simile.
Con quest' ultimo romanzo, Fezzi e' piu' riflessivo e meno "pacione" rispetto ai precedenti. Le addizioni femminile e' un romanzo "di crescita", retrospettivo, in cui il protagonista, Luca - veronese 30enne proprietario di un bar nella sonnacchiosa Borgo Trento - si ritrova faccia a faccia con i suoi quattro amori passati, che ritornano da lui in carne ad ossa. E ovviamente Luca si trova a riflettere - fin troppo - su what if con ognuna dei suoi grandi amori.
Un libro sull'amore, certo, anzi su diversi tipi di amore, da quello adolescenziale, a quello piu' maturo dei trent'anni, ma soprattutto un libro sull'essere se stessi e la propria felicita' interiore e un libro sull'importanza dell'amicizia e dei solidi valori familiari.
Un libro che consiglio a tutti i veronesi che ritrovanno un bellissimo ritratto della loro citta'. ma anche a tutti i 20-30-40enni che vogliono una storia piacevole ma non sdolcinata, riflessiva ma non pesante.

Overall rating: 8   Plot: 8  Writing style: 8    Cover: 7

Title:Le addizioni femminili
Author: Alberto Fezzi
Publisher: Historica Edizioni
Publication year: 2015

Che cosa succederebbe se gli amori passati si ripresentassero tutti insieme, a confondere passato e presente, realtà e immaginazione? È quello che capita al protagonista, Luca, barista trentenne con tutte le incertezze e le domande di una generazione. Serio ma non troppo, ingenuo fino a strappare la risata, Luca si trova assolutamente impreparato di fronte a questi nuovi vecchi incontri. Ne segue una serie di eventi inaspettati, che vengono a scombinare la sua vita tranquilla, in una Verona che, timidamente, riesce a raccontare tutta la bellezza della vita di provincia. Le aritmetiche amorose del protagonista verranno definitivamente sovvertite; un gioco del destino, in cui la realtà è più sorprendente di tutte le innumerevoli ipotesi. Il risultato dell'assommarsi dei ritorni, infatti, sarà per Luca una rivelazione ben più grande, che arriverà, sul finale a sorpresa, a mostrargli il volto dell'unica persona con cui veramente fare i conti.

The Author:
Direttamente dal sito dell'autore: "Sono nato a Verona nel 1977, terzo figlio di madre professoressa e casalinga, e padre dirigente d’azienda e cantante lirico, e tutta questa è la ragione per cui dentro di me suona sempre il Rigoletto.
Mi sono diplomato al liceo classico, mi sono laureato in Giurisprudenza e sono diventato avvocato. Ma nel frattempo ho fatto il rocker, l’attore e poi lo scrittore. Certo, tutte attività da senzadio che agli occhi della maggior parte della gente appaiono inconciliabili con quella dell’avvocato, un uomo palloso intento solamente a leggere vecchie pergamene con il monocolo."

Friday, 9 June 2017

Book Review: Ragione & Sentimento - S. Bertola

"Per me l'amore non è così. Non è questa specie di bestialità aguzza che morde Anna. Non è un tumulto, una mareggiata. È placida l'onda, prospero il vento.  Amore è un faro fisso che sovrasta la tempesta e non vacilla mai. È un segreto, che se ne parli di sbriciola. È il bacio che non ci siamo dati, quelli che ci siamo sfioriti. È aprire un regalo piano piano, mettendoci un sacco di tempo, sciogliere tutti i modi del nastro, poi arrotolare il nastro in una matassina, e legare la matassina e posarla lì accanto. Staccare lo scotch senza rompere la carta. Togliere la carta, piegarla seguendo le pieghe già presenti, metterla da parte, insieme alla matassina. Aprire la scatola. Ci vorranno mesi a fare tutto questo? Bene. Preferisco così, piuttosto che strappare nastro e carta, e scoperchiare con violenza, e consumare il regalo con avidità, per poi buttarli via perché non mi piace più, ce n'è un altro, per favore?"

Premetto che ho letto tutti i romanzi di Stefania Bertola, che mi piace molto la sua ironia e come scrive, in modo frizzante, tagliente ma non acido. La Bertola e' molto brava a descrivere in maniera caricaturale ma non esagerata l'umanita;, specialmente quella della Torino "bene", di cui questo romanzo strapullula. Il "remake" di Ragione e sentimento della Austen si sente e non si sente, a parer mio, con un altro titolo potrebbe anche passare inosservato. 
Cio' che pero' mi e' piaciuto davvero molto nel libro sono le descrizioni pungenti e molto divertenti dei personaggi e delle loro debolezze e relazioni. 
Le tre protagoniste indiscusse, le sorelle Cerrato, forse con l'eccezione della maggiore, hanno tutte un carattere molto particolare, una parla con i Beatles di cui e' innamorata, l'altra e' dedita a conservare la sua verginita' per conservarla per il "vero amore". Ovviamente ci saranno calamita' e problemi insormontabili durante il romanzo che le nostre eroine dovranno affrontare e l'amore e' al centro di tutto. Eleonora, la sorella maggiore, e' forse quella meno caricaturale e piu' "equilibrata", la roccaforte di una famiglia che, alla morte impriovvisa del padre, viene catapultata in un mondo in cui devono arrangiarsi da sole e senza un soldo. 
Certo, la storia di per se' non e' nulla di originale, ma quello che contraddistingue la Bertola da tante altre autrici di "chick lit", italiane e non, e' proprio la penaa graffiante che non risparmia. 

Overall rating: 6,5   Plot: 6,5   Writing style: 7    Cover: 7

Title:Ragione & Sentimento
Author: Stefania Bertola
Publisher: Einaudi
Pages: 232
Publication year: 2017

La morte improvvisa di Gianandrea Cerrato, valente avvocato penalista, oltre a privare una moglie del marito e tre figlie del padre, ha delle conseguenze del tutto inaspettate. Da un giorno all'altro le quattro donne si trovano a dover riorganizzare la loro vita. Ed è Eleonora, la figlia maggiore, a cercare il modo di mandare avanti quella famiglia di femmine «variamente deragliate ». Mentre la piccola Margherita vive in una dimensione parallela, Eleonora e Marianna sono divise da una visione opposta dell'esistenza e dell'amore: Marianna legge Shakespeare e crede nell'amore assoluto, Eleonora invece, impegnata com'è a sbarcare il lunario e ad arginare la follia collettiva, non è affatto sicura di sapere cosa sia, veramente, l'amore. Intorno a loro si muove il mondo, con le sorprese, l'allegria, l'inganno. La ragione e il sentimento. Perché quella è una delle grandi battaglie che ci tocca combattere nella vita. Non proprio a tutti, perché esistono esseri fortunati senza ragione, o senza sentimento. Ma la maggior parte di noi ne ha un po' dell'una e un po' dell'altro, e non sempre riesce a farli coesistere pacificamente. Quindi si lotta: si lotta da sempre e si lotterà per sempre, e per questo motivo tra tutti i romanzi di Jane Austen Ragione e sentimento è quello piú adatto a essere periodicamente riscritto, scagliandolo dentro il tempo e i secoli che passano. Stefania Bertola l'ha fatto in modo irresistibile, con l'umorismo e la maestria che le conosciamo da sempre.

The Author:
Stefania Bertola e' nata a Torino il 27 dicembre 1952 ed è una scrittricetraduttricesceneggiatrice e autrice radiofonica italiana.
Ha pubblicato diversi romanzi (solitamente ambientati a Torino) che coniugano sentimento, umorismo e senso del surreale con risultati che possono ricordare la letteratura anglosassone chick lit per quanto riguarda il tono leggero e divertente, anche se i temi si discostano decisamente dai canoni di quel genere.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Book Review: Before the fall - N. Hawley

“Life is a series of decisions and reactions. It is the things you do and the things that are done to you.
And then it's over.” 

I could not get pass page 50ish, it just did not take me at all, after the first pages which were very promising, describing the plane crash and how the survivors made it, it just became boring and dull, with all these descriptions about this multi billionaires and how they made this news channel. 

Overall rating: 4   Plot: 6    Writing style: 5    Cover: 4

Title: Before the fall
Author: Noah Hawley
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 400
Publication year: 2017

On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs--the painter--and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the tragedy and the backstories of the passengers and crew members--including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot--the mystery surrounding the crash heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy: Was it merely dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations--all while the reader draws closer and closer to uncovering the truth.

The Author:
Noah Hawley is an Emmy, Golden Globe, PEN, Critics' Choice, and Peabody Award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. He has published four novels and penned the script for the feature film Lies and Alibis. He created, executive produced, and served as showrunner for ABC's My Generation and The Unusuals and was a writer and producer on the hit series Bones. Hawley is currently executive producer, writer, and showrunner on FX's award-winning series, Fargo.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Book Review: Anything is possible - E. Strout

"And because he was Charlie, who years ago had fouled himself profoundly, because he was Charlie and not someone else, he could not say to his son: You are decent and strong, and none of this has anything to do with me; but you came through it, that childhood that wasn't all roses, and I'm proud of you, I'm amazed by you. Charlie could not even say a watered-down version of whatever that feeling would be. He could not even clap his son on the shoulder in greeting, or when saying goodbye."

I had the immense pleasure of participating to an event at Waterstones Gower Street in London last week, where Elizabeth Strout was presenting her latest novel. I really enjoyed it, I found Elizabeth Strout witty, with a great sense of humour, very elegant and kind and strong.
She talked about the importance of being truth when you write, which is what she thinks permitted her to become a well known author. She talked about how she does not judge her characters, even when they are "bad" or they do "bad things".
She explained that, while writing My name is Lucy Barton - which I really really loved - she was simultaneously also writing the stories that then became Anything is possible. The latest novel is indeed the story of various characters from the Illinois town where Lucy Barton grew up, characters who were all in the previous novel.
I loved Anything is possible, I loved how it seems a simple story of normal people from a rural county, but in reality it is all but simple. It touches in depth on a lot of issues, poverty (both material and moral), difference in classes, betrayal, parents & sons/daughters relationships, the PTSD of men who fought in Vietnam to name just some of the topics in the book. And all these subjects are so naturally described and not judged in the novel, Don't get me wrong, the book is quite sad and "dark" in a way, however it leaves you with hope, anything is possible after all and as Strout said at the event, life is messy but we go through it/
Each chapter of the book is about a different characters, however all the people are interlinked so it never gives you the sensation of abrupt endings, there is always a constant flow in the story, with the right pauses and pace to make the readers reflect and assimilate the plot.
Strout can build such an empathy between the reader and the character, so you end up feeling all the emotions they are feeling with them. Elizabeth Strout writes divinely, the stream of words just captures in the novel and you just want more and more. Few authors can give me this feeling of being in the book, of total engrossment in the hard simple lives of the characters.
In this latest novel, I found some similarities with Kent Haruf, in the sense that both writers are masters in writing about countryside life in a simple yet so profound way.
I just loved Anything is possible and I am almost sad I devoured it in two evenings. I loved all of Strout's books so far and I cannot wait for the next one!

Overall rating: 9   Plot: 9   Writing style: 10    Cover: 9

Title:Anything is possible
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Random House)
Pages: 272
Publication year: 2017

Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind. Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout's place as one of America's most respected and cherished authors.

The Author:
Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire.  From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days.  She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction.  During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.
During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on.  She read biographies of writers, and was already studying – on her own – the way American writers, in particular, told their stories.  Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of sixteen was sending out stories to magazines.  Her first story was published when she was twenty-six. 
Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977.  Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology.  She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College.  By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen.  Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

May 2017 Wrap up

Viaggiare in giallo - AA.VV.
Vari racconti gialli di autori famosi, alcuni belli, alcuni brutti, alcuni cosi cosi'. Mi e' bastato leggere il racconto di Rocco Schiavone per essere felice!
Rating:   6.5 out 10

L'amore che mi resta - M. Marzano
Un libro "pugno nello stomaco", duro e tenero insieme, da leggere.
Rating:   8 out of 10

Gli innocenti - P. Calvetti
Un romanzo delicato e musicale, profondo, forte, commovente.
Rating:   8 out 10

Snowman - J. Nesbo
A great thriller, very unpredictable
Rating:  7 out of 10

Small great things - J. Picoult
A shocking and stunning novel about racism and race.
Rating:  8 out of 10

Before we visit the Goddess - C. B. Divakaruni
A novel about mothers and daughters, nice but didn't wow me.
Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Troppo tardi per la vertia' - G. Simoni
Un gran bel poliziesco classico
Rating:  7 out of 10

Do not say we have nothing - M. Thien
Abandoned, I found it too slow and boring.

Bull Mountain - B. Panowich
More a TV serie script than a novel, not bad.
Rating:  6 out of 10

Anything is possible - E. Strout
I love Strout and I loved these stories set in Illinois. A must read.
Rating:  9 out 10