The other day I realized that I miss Italian literature a lot, so I started reading The Garden of Monsters. I am sure there are countries of which you are especially fond of their literature. My faves are Japanese and Italian literature, and I miss them if I haven’t read a book from them for a long time. I wanted to satisfy my longing with Lorenza Pieri’s first book translated into English. I’m glad I did.
The Garden of Monsters immediately managed to pull me into the story with its colourful and attractive characters. This novel is about two different families and therefore, two different Italy. In southern Tuscany, farm owners Biaginis and, Sanfilippies, one of Rome’s wealthy families, are starting to do business together in the area called Maremma and of course, everything gets complicated.
We readers are most interested in Annamaria because she seems to be the only sane person. However, Annamaria does not know what to do with herself. She struggles with all the insecurity of being a young girl and the uneasiness of having a dysfunctional family. Until she meets that amazing artist Nikki de Saint Phalles. These two women help each other and grow stronger in ways they could never imagine.
This book is about growing up, getting over traumas, responsibilities, injustice, sexuality, love, family and many more. Although some chapters are unnecessarily long, I think those who want to go to Italy (in their dreams) might love it. Let me remind you that this is a drama and, if you are looking for a happy book; it may not be for you. Enjoy!
The Garden of Monsters
A rural epic about warring families in modern Italy and an intimate bildungsroman of the artist’s journey.
Set in the Maremma region of Southern Tuscany, this novel tells the story of two families against the backdrop of a rapidly transforming country. The Biagini are local ranchers, while the wealthy Sanfilippi belong to Rome’s upper middle-class. When Sauro, an ambitious rancher, and Filippo, a hedonistic politician, become business partners, the stories of their families become irrevocably intertwined. As an influx of new money pours into the town, political allegiances, family loyalties, moral codes, and sexual identities all begin to shift.
Sauro and Filippo, their wives Miriam and Giulia, and their sons, are the prototypes of the new Italy, ostensibly emancipated from traditional mores, but at the same time, insecure and blinkered. Fifteen- year-old Annamaria, fragile and anxious, struggles to find her place among them. Luckily, a parallel world is taking shape nearby: the Tarot Garden, the monumental sculpture garden created by the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle. It is in this magical place, through her conversations with the artist, that Annamaria will slowly find a sense of identity and belonging.
Lorenza Pieri spent her childhood on the small island of Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany. She studied in Siena and so Paris and worked in publishing for fifteen years. In 2014 she moved to the United States, where she works as an author, journalist, and so literary translator. Isole minori, her award-winning debut novel, has been translated in five languages. This is her first book to appear in English.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: