Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson:
Believe it or not, even after many trips to Italy, I haven’t been to Naples. After reading this book (and the Elena Ferrante series) I realize how much the city has to offer. Only in Naples is an honest account of the author’s journey and how she embraces life in a new place. Having a strong connection to Italy like many Italophiles, Ms. Wilson describes her love life and Neopolitan mother in law in a cheeky and fun way that makes it a light beach read. She explains small acts of kindness that people do for her to make her settle in the new city and the glorious food she eats which genuinely made me fall in love with the story. The characters, mainly the mother-in-law, are also obvious choices. As in most memoirs, there are some things I didn’t relate to at all, so I’d just suggest to keep an open mind. Just let the city of Naples charm you with its people and forgot the author’s constant mention of her upper class status for a while.
Venetian Blood by Christine Evelyn Volker: This was a recent find thanks to ItalyBookTours. It is very evident from the beginning that the author is fond of Venice and Italian culture as she has used the Italian language more than moderately in titles and sentences of the book. She explains Venice as a historic city close to her heart with a ton of cultural and architectural references. It is important to read the book at a leisurely pace because the book is unrushed. You have to wait almost at the end to know even a hint of the killer. Apart from that, the reader is really shown Venice through the author’s descriptions. Reading Venetian Blood was akin to experiencing the murder story in Venice myself as the author talks about how everyone knows everyone else in the city, how food is given paramount importance whether it is a bite of spezzatino or cicchetti or a glass of caffè or prosecco and how the church bells make you fall in love with the the dreamy city. Overall, a welcome change from the many romantic titles based in Venice. Personally, it should be read more for the cultural and historic aspects than the story. I really applaud the author for the effort and research gone into this book as she has made Venice seem more alive than ever.
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt: If you are looking to delve into history and read about Italy 100 years back, this is the book to pick. I took ages to finish it (seriously!!) and almost gave up in the middle but kept going for some reason. The writing isn’t easy, well.. because this book was written aeons ago. The author takes the reader back in time and tells everything possible on the Italian Renaissance in relation to Italian history, culture, art and science. He describes it by understanding the people and political hierarchy during those days. Although it might sound very historic and boring but once you pick the book, it is interesting especially if you are into art and culture. The only downside is that it is written for his fellows so Burckhardt makes a lot of generalizations in the copy that are not understandable.
I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti: I am amazed by the different themes in Italian literature and this book speaks immensely of a coming of age theme. Not to give any spoilers, this novel is about the loss of childhood innocence. With beautiful descriptions of Southern Italy and it’s countryside, the narration of the story is done by a 9 year old child. This immediately encapsulated me even though the book is set in the year 1978. There are parts that are slow but the book is short and can be finished in two sittings. I love the simple style of writing and applaud the translator for doing such a great job. I hear this book was made into a popular movie too. Now excited to watch!
Region: Southern Italy