According To Family Legend, David Pittagors Died As A Result Of A Duel His Death Is The Mysterious Pivot Around Which His Grand Daughter, An Independent Modern Woman, Constructs An Imaginary Memoir Of Her Mother S Background And Life She Follows The Family As They Emigrate To New York Where They Find Only Humiliation And Poverty And After Their Return To Italy In The S As She Is Drawn By The Passions And Prejudices Of Her Imagination, We See How Family Memory, Like Folk Memory, Weaves Its Own Dreams Review at A woman in London tries to reconstuct the violent and mysterious history of her family in southern Italy
Among her many accomplishments, Marina Warner, daughter of an English father and Italian mother, is listed on Wikipedia firstly as a mythographer It is those elements that largely determine the style and content of this impressive, at least partly autobiographical novel.
Narrator Anna, who catalogues scraps of ephemera for a struggling London museum akin perhaps to the novelist s trade , is writing a history of her Italian family, centred around the legend that her grandfather Davide was injured in a duel, the effects of which finally killed him 20 years later She imagines him growing up near Riba anagram Bari with his sisters, their transatlantic voyage vividly described in its appalling detail to America, and return after misfortune to their homeland now ruled by Mussolini.
The story is fascinating up to that point, drawing upon traditions, nature and folklore, most vividly around the time of Davide s death when friends help his wife to die all clothing into mourning black even as he lies dying And after the wide angle shot, the detail his razor lying with shavings buried in streaks of soap.
Anna s writing style is rich in vocabulary, imaginative in description, and if the precisely articulated language spills into the thoughts and speech of her characters, particularly those of Davide s young sisters, it is best assumed to be the narrator s own version rather than how they actually might have expressed themselves.
The most fascinating of these girls is the sensual Rosa, but would she really, aged 11, discovering her femininity, really describe her vagina as it feels like persimmons in there, when they are perfect to eat The second half of the novel skirts around the family s relationship with the fascist regime, which might not have been as straight forward as expected, but falls rather flat after the death of Davide, descending into quotidien details of family life.
There is an interlude that includes a highly improbably flirtation at the Disneyesque Fun City a shallow contrast to the depth of family tradition before a return to the central issue of how Davide really suffered his injury The circumstances are left open to doubt, but are shown in a new light by Anna s mother Which begs the question why she did not interrogate her thoroughly in the first place.
The low rating denotes my tastes rather than the quality of this novel I probably misread the blurb, or expected something from the author because of her background in a certain field.
The story starts slowly, interestingly in the second person Set in Italy, the prose evokes sultry Italian summers The chapters shift in time, each headed up with a date, but this is an example of the reader not always taking in everything on the page A few times part way into the chapter, I had to go back to the header to see where we were in the scheme of things.