Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I knew it. I just knew that my complete love for Melina Marchetta was clouded only by her 3rd person POV. And this book is the proof that I was right! I'm relieved I got that out of my system.
I loved this book. Loved it. It's up there with Saving Francesca and Jellicoe Road. But possibly, I loved this book even more than the others. Now I'm going to tell you why.
In 1956, my grand-uncle was 16 when he kissed his mum and dad goodbye, jumped on a boat and took off for Australia in search of fortune with his aunt.
My grand-aunt, his future wife, was 3 when her whole family left the teeny tiny village of Caltrano, Italy, got on another boat and set off for the same country. They met there, married there, had children there and I'm pretty sure that's where they will die one day. They come visit once in while and, very rarely, we visit too. Last time I went there was eons ago, I was 16 and stayed with them for a whole summer.
I got to be sucked in the Italian community in Melbourne, was mesmerized by their inbreeding, shocked by their Sunday clubs where they gather and gorge on gargantuan amounts Italian food, I was rendered speechless by sold out concerts of bad, bad Italian singers who nobody in Italy wants to see ever again and that mysteriously gather huge crowds in Australia.
We're not like that in Italy, I thought. Not even close. Especially not us, in the North. When my cousin comes to Italy, he comes looking for his Roman roots, he says. And I reluctantly remind him that our family is actually more likely to have descended from the barbarians than from Romans. You think he cares? His eyes glaze over and I know he's dreaming of panem et circenses.
So that's not Italy. Except... when I really think about it, it actually is. Just... less. Emigrants in the 50s and 60s left the country and took with them all those mores and folklore that belonged to us. But then, they isolated and... mutated, in a way. But all of it is true. When I was in Australia with my relatives, all I could see where exasperated features of Italian culture, many of which belonged to the past. They even developed their own language, a mix of regional dialects and made-up words borrowed from English. Amazing.
The tomato day thing in the book? I have crystal clear memories of my gran and aunt doing that during my childhood just... in a less colorful way. And my mother in law still makes tomato sauce exactly that way every year, with tomatoes from her garden.
So.... yeah, a good part of my family are actually wogs. If you put that together with Marchetta's perceptive rendering of human emotions, her impressively smooth writing style and her usual excellence at characterization, you might see why I am actually fascinated by this book.
I swear I will read each and every word this woman will ever publish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
No wait! I have to add this favorite quote from the book:
"I just don't trust people who have bodies that change with their moods."
Boy, was this me as a teenager.
View all my reviews