Last year I read two books by Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti – Me and You, a novella that I loved, and I’ll Steal You Away, which I didn’t really like at all. I was keen to read more from Ammaniti though, as I had liked Me and You so much.
This story is set in Italy and is narrated by nine-year-old Michele, who lives in a poor hamlet populated by a small handful of families. He lives with his parents and five-year-old sister Maria, who trails around after Michele and his motley crew of friends. One baking hot summer, Michele and his friends go round the area on their bikes, racing, playing games and daring each other. After one such dare, Michele makes a terrifying discovery…
I am happy to say I really enjoyed this book. The characters are endearing and you can relate to the boredom of the children, growing up in an area where there is nothing to do and the parents are poor and, at times, bitter. The build up to Michele’s discovery is tense, and the fallout afterwards is also exciting. It is a short book, and you could easily read this in a day or two, which is good as you do want to keep reading as the story grips you.
I also really enjoyed the Italian setting, which felt very convincing with the descriptions of the food and the landscape. It was simply written but you could picture the scene, which added to the story.
My only real gripe is that I found some of Michele’s actions a little unconvincing at times, and I also wasn’t completely convinced by his younger sister. But overall I found this a powerful book, and I also liked the slightly ambiguous ending. There is also a film of this book, which I intend to check out too.
My rating: 9 out of 10