My Brother Is An Only Child - Antonio Pennacchi | Translation Month

Mostly Reading YA is organising in April a Translation Month, go check out the brilliant reviews of books from all over the world translated in English! 
I know the French writers and I've noticed a few authors I knew about but there were some really amazing books I had no idea existed! I have always been a fan of translated lit and Mostly Reading YA's initiative is really great to raise awareness on foreign authors!


I have reviewed the Italian book My Brother Is An Only Child by Antonio Pennacchi, it is the amazing story of two brother with very different political convictions who go through the incredibly thriving 1970s in Italy. Go check out my review here.

If you are interested in the political and social history of Italy (don't all raise your hands at once :D) and if you like reading books where you actually learn something from the context of the plot, My Brother Is An Only Child is a book for you! Italy in the 1970s is one of the most thriving periods of history of the country. After the Second World War and the very long reign of the Social Democrats at the head of the country, a new generation is born and wants some radical change because it doesn't feel represented in the actual ruling class. Split between the fascist (in the Italian sense of the word - as in nationalists) and the communists, and with still a very strong presence of the Catholic Church, this decade is full of restlessness, protests and general political upheaval (as anywhere in the world at the end of the 1960s, beginning of the 1970s).

This is the climate in which the story of My Brother Is An Only Child takes place where one brother is very handsome and popular Manrico, who after leaving the seminary goes to study law and becomes politically involved in the Communist movement, and where the other brother Accio (pejorative nickname given to him since he was a child and inspiration for the title of the book) is the black sheep of the family who gets involved with the Fascist Party after leaving the seminary himself. Later in the book, Accio falls in love with Manrico's girlfriend and the hostility between the two brothers, which has existed ever since they were kids, continues even more.

The story is told from the point of view of Accio who isn't loved nor even respected by any member of his family. Since he is a child he has to put up with the decisions others take for him (as the youngest boy in the family, his two older brothers come first) and with the weight of being different and always in the way (according to his family). It is truly heart-breaking to be in his head and to feel the anger he feels constantly. He is eager to be accepted but doesn't fit in wherever he goes to. The book is a coming of age story of this boy no one really likes and who is sent to the seminary to be a priest. We go through the various stages of adolescence with him and we realise how outdated some of the traditions are. The book gives also an amazing insight into the Italian culture and its traditions. While reading, I couldn't help thinking how Italian the book was, not only because it was written by an Italian author and because it took place in this very particular context for the country, but also because it really goes inside Italian customs and ways of thinking. The book takes place in a rural area where the economic and social factors are very important for a family of seven children.

I literally couldn't stop reading this book, Accio's voice is very clear and his personality just pops out of the pages and you feel as if you are following him around his village trying to raise people behind Fascist ideas. You really feel for Accio and wonder if he would have turned out exactly the same way had people in his family made more effort towards him. The portrait of the Italian Mamma (mother) is absolutely brilliant, I can tell you that Italians are way more afraid of their mothers and that a mother can make all their kids follow a straight line even during the worse years of adolescence. Just read this book to see how much!

What I love about reading translated fiction is how much we can learn from another culture. I am part-Italian and grew up on the Mediterranean so I really related to the cultural aspects of the book and I really loved how fascinating the book is in terms of political and social history of Italy in the 1970s. The book is well translated in English and you don't lose the spirit of the book in the translation. A film was made of this book and if you don't feel like reading the book, don't hesitate to watch the film!

Many thanks to YA Reader for organising such a brilliant month and for inviting me to write this review!

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Summary from Amazon:
Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.


Never Let Me Go is one of those books you really shouldn't know anything about when you start reading. Of course, no one should tell you *the* spoiler, but you also shouldn't hear much about the story: when talking to other people about this book, I realised that we had reacted very differently to the various characters and situations and I wonder if knowing someone's opinion of the book might ruin the experience for you, so I will keep this review to a bare minimum!

Kathy narrates the story of when she was a young student at Hailsham in the 1970s England. She explains her life there from her very early years, how the school was functioning and her friendships there, with Tommy and Ruth in particular. From an early point on, you realise there is something peculiar going on at Hailsham, but you can't exactly put your finger on what.

Kathy is kind hearted and becomes friend with bullied Tommy who has some anger issues and is constantly teased by his school mates. Kathy is also friend with Ruth, whom Kathy learns is often lying and manipulating people. Kathy makes it clear to Ruth that she doesn't always fall in her tricks but that she will remain her friend. Kathy and Ruth's relationship and how it evolves is cleverly woven and definitely has an influence on both girls' personalities.

There is something quite detached and haunting about Kathy's way of telling her story. Her voice is very clear and we read her as if she was telling her true life story herself. There are no embellishments or mature reasoning in how she recounts her life and her relationships with both Ruth and Tommy and from how she presents things, you realise things Kathy herself has no idea about yet.
I need to read more books by Kazuo Ishiguro to see exactly how much of the story-telling is his and how much is Kathy's, but I really loved the contrast between it being a dystopian story and how Kathy's voice is so matter-of-factly and at times emotionally detached.
There are some truly heart-breaking moments in the book and they really are fascinatingly told by Kathy's voice. I really loved hearing this story from her.

I don't want to say more for fear of giving away the plot. The book is a dystopian novel set in the past, and I found this aspect incredibly fascinating. The idea was to see how the world would have been had the scientific energy been diverted towards something other than nuclear energy. I found the atmosphere of the story and the context very believable and I thought Ishiguro put himself brilliantly in the head of his characters. I really want to read more of him, especially his novels containing references to his Japanese heritage.

I went to a screening of the film (which is really wonderful with a fantasting casting and acting) with a Q&A session with Kazuo Ishiguro so I will discuss the more spoilery themes then!

I think that anyone interested in Dystopia, novels about science, great writing and fantastic characters would love reading this book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro | Faber and Faber | Read on my kindle!

Anne McCaffrey Challenge - Link Up

Hi all,

Here is the link up for your Anne McCaffrey reviews.

For more information about the Challenge and how to sign up, head over here! And if you want to read the review from the first quarter, head over here!

When you sign to the linky below, please put your name, the name of your blog and the title of the book in parenthesis:

Ex: Caroline @ Portrait Of A Woman (Dragonsong)

Enjoy the books!

Escape from Shadow Island - Paul Adam

Summary from Amazon:

'My mum killed my dad, then dragged his body all the way along the beach . . . I don't believe a word of it'

Max Cassidy is a teenage escapologist, so good he’s nicknamed the Half-pint Houdini. His father disappeared two years ago and his body has never been found. His mother is now serving a life sentence for her husband’s murder.

Max’s mission to learn the truth about his family takes him on an thrilling journey, from London to the horrors of the terrifying Shadow Island in central America.

Escapology is dangerous but not nearly as dangerous as real life . . .


I received this book on Friday and was sooo excited to read about an escapologist that I started it right away and the story was so brilliant that I read it in a day! I couldn't put the book down and I thought it is a fantastic idea for a series!

Okay, so I might need to add "don't do this at home" for the kids and all that!
(there's a disclaimer in the first pages of the book and I literally jumped to read what they meant - I'm one tough cookie that way)

The idea of this book is such sheer brilliantness that I have been jumping up and down thinking about it! FINALLY we get to know how those annoyingly smug people who get cuffed, chained and thrown underwater in a bag manage to get out of there when normal people like myself would just drown (well, I might be able to get free too you know, it's not like I've ever tried, but I could be a fantastic escapologist for all I know)!

Anyways, this book is made of awesome! Max Cassidy is your regular 14 year old North London kid, except that every now and then he goes on a stage and fascinates hundreds of people by getting free of cuffs and chains and other. He learned everything from his father who was a brilliant escapologist himself. Max's mother is serving a heavy sentence for (allegedly!) killing her husband. Max is living with his father's stage assistant Consuela and pays himself for his education with his work. Life is tough, but Max is a great kid and goes through this without complaining.

When he learns that there is a chance his father could in fact not be dead and that his mother could finally be set free, Max doesn't hesitate and goes directly to Santo Domingo to find out what happened two years ago! Max puts himself in the most dangerous position but he is not without resources thanks to his escapologist talents!

It is a fantastic adventure through and through and I really loved how unique the story is. Being in Max's mind when he does his tricks is priceless and you really get how the "tricks" work! There are so many books on invented magic that we sometimes forget that the existent magic is a game of illusions and is as breathtakingly impressive as the imaginary one we can invent. I really can't wait to read more of Max in future books! 

The book is written in a third-person point of view and follows Max. The style is fast-paced and will make you stay at the edge of your seat during the entire book. there are some funny moments as well and you will love Max's personality full of courage, sense of justice and a good dose of attitude!

Fans of Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider will love this book, there is fantastic action and the originality of the escapologist angle is absolutely brilliant since kids can always go take classes on this or go watch shows by real magicians (which are age appropriate, that goes without saying!).

A zillion thank yous to RHCB for this brilliant book!

Escape from Shadow Island by Paul Adam | Random House Children's Books | April 2011 | 282 pages | 11+, Adventure

Theatre: In A Forest, Dark And Deep by Neil Labute

Summary from the Vaudeville Theatre:
On a dark and stormy night, all Bobby thought he was doing was helping his sister Betty clear out her cottage in the forest. But in this cabin of lies nothing is as it seems and the truth refuses to be packed away. What is she hiding? Does he really want to find out?
Lost heartthrob Matthew Fox will make his West End debut in the world premiere of In a Forest, Dark and Deep, written and directed by Neil LaBute. The new psychological thriller about sibling rivalry, in which British stage and screen star Olivia Williams will play his sister, will have a limited 12-week season at the Vaudeville Theatre from 14 March to 4 June 2011 (previews from 3 March).


I went to see this play last week and I was literally blown away by the story and the actors' performance. I love going to the theatre but it is sadly so expensive that I really have to think about it twice before buying a ticket. Last year I bought the cheapest fare and didn't see much of Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen so when I saw that there was a relatively cheap ticket for a fourth row seat for this play at the Vaudeville Theatre, I really didn't hesitate!

I have been a huge fan of Olivia Williams for years. I know she usually has second roles in films, but she has always struck me as a very talented actress. And I obviously knew Matthew Fox from Lost! I thought they were both very impressive and had a great chemistry on stage.

The set was a sort of mountain chalet on two floors with loads of books. The special effects were creating a frightening atmosphere as if a storm was looming outside the set. There is also some loud rock alternative music in the theatre before the play starts and at times during the play. 

I liked the conflicting set of values between the two characters liberal vs. conservative in a way that didn't mean right vs. wrong. People working in the Arts are all very liberal so when a conservative position is portrayed, it appears negatively. Here, on the contrary, Matthew Fox's character (served by his brilliant interpretation) shows various layers of what it means to be a conservative and the hypocrisy behind more liberal ideas. 

The relation between Bobby and Betty gets tangled and is unraveled during the play. Williams and Fox's interactions and their raw interpretation gives so much depth to the play that I have been wanting to watch it again!
It is hilariously funny at times and heartbreakingly tragic at others.  From a funny vaudeville-like relation between a very different sister and her brother, the play turns into a psychological conflict where the characters start to show who they really are.

I loved this play a lot and I can't recommend it enough to fans of theatre, vaudeville and American culture. Don't miss it if you are in London!

If you like theatre, check out Jo's brilliant post "Theatre and me" on Once Upon A Bookcase.