1970s Naples: a thirteen year old girl of privilege is suddenly removed from her seaside home and returned to a cramped and dirty apartment outside the city. The key word here is “returned”; our heroine has been sent “home” to a place that she never knew.
She spent her entire life living with her glamorous mother and policeman father, only to have that reality shattered in one afternoon when the man she knew as her father bundles her and all of her belongings into the car an drives her to her Mamma. The man who was her father is her uncle; the woman who was her mother is her aunt.
Her birth family is far from welcoming; they are just as disgusted by her world of wealth as she is by their world of violence and squalor. Instead of dance classes, she now dances around attacks from her brothers and strikes from her parents. She does not understand why she has been placed here, and her family does not understand her in the slightest.
A Girl Returned was translated by the same woman who translates Elena Ferrante’s work, and I read this piece while in the middle of My Brilliant Friend. The themes are similar; generational trauma, everyday violence, the almost unattainable promise of an education- and the spare style reflects back towards Ferrante’s work as well. Fun Fact: Donatella Di Pietrantonio is now a pediatric dentist!
I enjoyed this piece, and I am currently enthralled by My Brilliant Friend as well. I am on a bit of a volatile-midcentury-Italian kick; I adored The Flame Throwers and I recently devoured all of Danny Boyle’s Trust miniseries (about the JPG III kidnapping). If you can think of any other books in this general category please do not hesitate to let me know!