Sunday 8 April 2018

Swimming to Elba

Finished March 27
Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone, translated by Antony Shugaar

This novel surprised me by being quite different from what I expected. It centers on Anna and Francesca, two barely teen girls in a poor area of Piombino, Italy, just across from Elba. The girls live on the Via Stalingrad in one of a group of apartment buildings.
The girls are just becoming aware of their sexuality and the power it brings. Anna lives with her mother, Sandra, who works outside the home and is a social activist; her father Alessio, who has lots of charm and is always looking for a way to make a fast buck; and her older brother Mattia, who works at the local ironworks and is a very good looking young man.
Francesca lives with her father Enrico, a man with a strong temper, a limited intellect, and a suspicious nature; and her mother Rosa, a meek woman who puts up with a lot.
Anna and Francesca are the prettiest and most popular girls in their age group, and Anna is often doted on by the older girls interested in her brother. She is aware of Francesca's difficult home life, but doesn't really know how to help.
As we see the girls through one summer and into the next school year, we see how the changes affecting their lives also brings change to their relationship.
Because of the environment and social class, this is different from other books I've read about girls this edge. Life is more difficult, and more uncertain for these girls.

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