Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: "I'll Steal You Away" by Niccolo Ammaniti

Well, I think it finally happened. An author whose entire published works (at least in English translation) are absolutely astounding, without a weak link in the bunch. And I am glad it is writer like Niccolo Ammaniti, whose great talent at fictionalizing adolescent pathos without sacrificing the art of narrative. I recommend all of his books that have been published in English. They all bring something different to the table, even though a lot of the structures in his novels seem very similar. While they all deal with adolescent growth in contrast to shocking violence and careless evil, each book has a different lesson it teaches about the importance of being a good and honest person, even if you live in a world and society that does not reward such qualities in its citizens. This novel, I’ll Steal You Away, deals with the harsh truth adolescents must face when they learn that the world does not care if their dreams and hopes are fulfilled, even if you clearly deserve them. While I can see this book being something of a companion piece to As God Commands, with both having similar lengths and chapter structure, along with the same kind of narrative that jumps from different characters points of view, it is also very different, offering a more intimate portrait of the lives of its two main characters than in As God Commands, and I feel it stands as being Ammaniti’s saddest book that has been translated into English. The story begins with young Pietro finding out he was the only kid who failed in his class and must now repeat the grade he is in now at his small town school. We than go back six months before these events, when local lothario Giovanni has returned to the town after a failed relationship with a rising movie star. These are two damaged people who in looking for way to overcome their hardships and move on with their lives, create even more horrible situations that affect countless numbers of people, but most of all themselves and their chances at redemption. Pietro, already a shy boy with no social skills, whose only friend is the beautiful Gloria, is suckered into destroying school property with a group of boys who have been viciously bullying him. Giovanni, still subconsciously clinging to his womanizing ways, begins a relationship with Pietro’s schoolteacher, who he does not know is a virgin. Agonizing scene follows agonizing scene (including what may be the most romantic date rape ever witnessed in fiction), until a totally unexpected death brings about the sad fates of the two lost souls at the center of this great novel. It ends less ambiguously than Ammaniti’s other books (although, in the way it is written, it could only be occurring in the characters mind), it results in the saddest and most melancholic of Ammaniti’s endings, although he is never one to let go of any hope for a soul to be redeemed. Glad to have found a writer whose very book accessible is a staggering achievement.
Rating: 5/5

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