Little did I know when I picked up this book – with little to no expectations I might add – that it would turn out to be one of my favorite books… Ever!
It has been a long time since I have gotten all consumed by a novel. You know those ones where “one-more-chapter” leads to you looking at your watch and realising three hours has passed. Or when you give up sleep and surrender to the fact that you’ll be tired at work the next day so you can find out what happens in the end (which is usually still half a book away).
It is only possible for this to be a short review because giving too much information away would mean ruining the experience for any other potential readers.
For me the best part of this story was the element of surprise. Something that I personally find has become a little rare in reading these days. Predictable twists and endings are becoming a dime a dozen and I’m often left wanting something more. This book was it.
The story is told from the point of view of several characters but in quite a clever and unique way. A couple of characters dominate the majority of the pages, while with others we only catch a glimpse of in a random chapter here and there. The stories also overlap from time to time, giving different viewpoints from the same time slot. During these instances the characters are not always together so it gives you a chance to see several things happening at the same time that do not relate to each other, which I found quite cool.
Originally the novel was published in Italian and later translated to English. I’ve read some other reviews where people have expressed that this made some of the story not make sense or that it felt like the story had lost a certain something. I have to say I totally disagree – but perhaps this depends on the individual. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on that…
Our main heroes of the novel are Rino and Cristiano Zena, a father and son of dysfunctional proportions. The two are joined for the most part by Rinos two – and only – friends; Quattro Formaggi, a slow and introverted soul who suffers from mental and physical conditions due to a severe electric shock in his youth and Danilo Aprea, estranged from his marriage after his baby daughter choked to death as he stood by helpless. The three older gentleman – no-hopers for lack of a better word – survive on a mix of beer and grappa and after labouring work starts to dry up they turn their sights to what they believe to be a pure genius criminal plan.
A few other noteworthy characters turn up by association but I will leave them for you to discover on your own terms. The novel is brutal in most parts, but effective in telling the tale. Every time I believed I had a character figured out, my opinions were tossed out the window.
I implore you to find a copy of this immediately and give it a read. Wherever you imagine this story to be going at the beginning I assure that you will be knocked sideways with how wrong you were.
Let me know what you think….