“But she would discuss it with God, before she went to Hell. She would point out to him that if he creates a person in a certain way then he can’t expect her to act as if she were not her.”
In this tiny slender skerrick of a novella (108 pages), the narrator’s eccentric grandmother is lovingly remembered. The title comes from the phrase used in Sardinia to describe someone who seems not to be entirely in their right mind. In an unusual take on the unreliable narrator construct, we have only the granddaughter’s recollection of her grandmother’s stories – and if the grandmother was not entirely truthful (even unintentionally), that skews the narrative.
It’s hard to classify this novella – it’s not heavily plot driven (very little actually happens) and the characters (apart from the grandmother) are never described much because we just have a narrative of their actions, not very much actual character description. I suppose it is a still life, in novella form. A bittersweet tale of wartime romance and old Sardinian life.
That is not to say that the novella is totally without events or key themes: the temporary romance is a sweet one and gently told; the longer arc of the grandmother’s marriage a more bitter-sweet one. I never quite got to grips with the grandfather’s character – he always seemed quite harsh and unloving – both towards his wife and his child. The grandmother is very interesting – I felt she wasn’t so much mad as just delighted in shocking people and wanted to be taken seriously, not imprisoned in backward customs.
Caution: contains very graphic adult content – which seems to spring out of nowhere! The book seems so slender and innocent and is lyrically written, and then suddenly there’s a page of… well, such content as is distinctly unsuitable for those with relatively conservative sensibilities! I was quite embarrassed to be reading this on the Tube a number of times for fear my neighbour was reading too and judged me!
Other reviews: Still Life with Books