Winner in 2003 of Italy’s Strega Prize, this teeming, nostalgic tale should find willing American readers.


A fictionalized portrait of the author’s heroic young ancestors, immigrants to America from Italy.

The hardscrabble journey of two immigrants to Ellis Island from Naples in 1903 form the backbone of Italian novelist Mazzucco’s long-winded tale: the not-yet-12-year-old boy called Diamante and his nine-year-old cousin Vita, disgorged along with 2,000 other passengers from the Republic, and summoned to the Prince Street boarding house owned by Vita’s grocer father, Agnello, to work. There is little enjoyment of childhood for these Little Italy immigrants: Vita helps Agnello’s American Circassian mistress, Lena, cook and clean for the boarders (Agnello has a wife back in Tufo), while Diamante has to prove how tough he is by doing dangerous odd jobs such as robbing graves for the suave thuggish boarder, Rocco, who becomes a successful Mafia head. Vita and Diamante swear eternal love for each other, though fate tears them apart when Diamante must leave for work in Ohio, and delinquent Vita is sent to reform school for three years, the only education she’ll have. Eventually, she ends up working in the Ansonia Hotel kitchen, marries Rocco (who’s already married), then another boarder, before starting up a notable restaurant of her own. Diamante, meanwhile, is crushed by her disloyalty and disillusioned with the miserable lot thrown at uneducated and underpaid Italians like him. Alternate chapters weave in nonfiction elements, with Mazzucco recounting her search for the facts of her grandfather’s story.

Winner in 2003 of Italy’s Strega Prize, this teeming, nostalgic tale should find willing American readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-28495-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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