A short story can create a whole world in a few pages, and the first three in this intriguing collection of Italian stories do just that.
Roberto Saviano depicts a small town full of young war veterans from the viewpoint of a 17-year-old war widow. In Carlo Lucarelli’s story, a downtrodden Eritrean maid destroys her corrupt masters. Valeria Parrella describes the slow maturing of a lonely peasant girl who longs to be a mother. These stories are beautifully crafted and, in each, the central character is female, gentle and lacks status in the respective Italian societies of today, col onial times and the war years.
The book’s underlying theme is that of the outsider; the next three stories explore this in different ways: a crime story set in a Milan tenement, an account of making Parmigiano cheese in the US in Benjamin Franklin’s time, and an essay pondering the nature of solitude. These are longer, more loosely constructed pieces and lack the rhythm and artistry of Saviano, Lucarelli and Parrella.