Nine closely observed stories of growing up, dislocation and family relationships.
The first story in the collection gives the volume its title and presents a lovely reminiscence of childhood and adolescence, with all its fumbling awkwardness. Emma, Luca and Monica have recently lost their mother, and their father takes them to a Greek village for summer vacation and an opportunity to at least temporarily put aside their grief. There, they meet Nadia, a Greek teenager with an almost adultlike self-possession, as well as Jack and David, two adolescents from Britain. Over several summers as they all grow up, Emma becomes intrigued by David’s uninhibited mother and has her first sexual experience with David. The story ends with Emma bumping into Jack years later in Rome and finding out David’s tragic end. “Chanel,” the following story, introduces us to Caterina, a documentary filmmaker, and her gay friend Pascal, who persuades Caterina to buy an expensive Chanel dress, in part since she’s always lived a life in which self-indulgence is seen as a catalyst for guilt. Years later, she still has the dress—and still hasn’t worn it—but learns a deeper lesson about its true worth. “Big Island, Small Island” takes us to sub-Saharan Africa, where Stella, a scientist with an interest in biodiversity, meets Andrea, her expat ex-lover, and discovers how far apart they’ve grown. In “An Indian Soirée,” a couple’s marriage unravels in the space of a single day.
And so it goes—each of Marciano’s stories is a gem, with fully realized characters wistfully and beautifully captured through dialogue that is both pensive and poignant.