Italian/Canadian author Francesca Pirreda has written a truly wonderful novel here. Very well written, highly literary. On the surface it reads much like a coming-of-age tale but it is much more than that, and that is due to it’s style, it’s structure, which is loose, free form.
It is the story of a young Italian teen named Eugenia, who like the author, is the daughter of an Italian father and a Quebecois mother. The story is framed by the family’s annual summer vacation on the island of Capri, where we first meet Eugenia writing in her journal. She’s precocious, happy, middle class. The narrative then begins to move into more stream of consciousness territory, where Eugenia reflects upon her childhood in Rome, complete with her schoolmates, her gardeners, maids, cardinals, nuns, priests, as well as her interests and her love of literature and language. We also learn of her parents, who are fairly young, living a sort of “La Dolce Vita” existence in the mid 1960s. The contrast between her parents world and the world of her own childhood is interesting. As we read, we grow with her, walking an almost dream-like path throughout her childhood. It is largely a book of remembrances, sometimes exploring the minutia of her memories - books, clothing, food, ice cream, but it’s never boring and it’s memory/daydream-like quality carries the reader blissfully along. All throughout the narrative we are in tune with Eugenia’s sense of wonder and one feels, by the end of the novel, that had the story continued on, she would most likely carry that wonder well into her adult life. By the novel’s end, we are back in Capri, and Eugenia is now 16, older, wiser, just at the door step of adulthood.
It is a very well written novel and one I’d highly recommend, especially to those who are interested in Italian literature.