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!

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