SWIMMING TO ELBA by Antony Shugaar


Email this review


Who can help two young women escape the gravitational pull of their hometown? Can they rely on each other, or will they have to separate and trust others?

Avallone’s debut novel tells an uneasy coming-of-age story. On the cusp of 14, on the cusp of young womanhood, best friends Anna and Francesca delight in their changing bodies. And so do all the men in town. Whether flaunting their assets in bikinis, sneaking into cabanas with boys, or performing a daily morning striptease, the girls revel in drawing as much attention to themselves as possible. Indeed, Avallone’s imagery incessantly sexualizes everything from the girls’ bodies to the machinery of the steel mills. Yet, as Francesca’s father and Anna’s older brother worry about the girls’ provocative behavior, they also struggle against economic disparity. Their own crowded shores of Piombino are littered with trash and drugs, while opposite, the pristinely white beaches of Elba beckon. Anna and Francesca will soon have to choose: work in the steel mills, marry a steel worker, or somehow escape to Elba. Staying in Piombino holds little attraction, particularly given the models of their own parents’ marriages: Francesca’s father is an abusive drunkard while Anna’s is a con artist, yet neither mother seems able to leave. Soon a complex constellation of adolescent pressures pushes the girls apart. Anna explores a relationship with her older brother’s friend, Mattia. Francesca becomes drawn into the vortex of the darker underbelly of Piombina, including fake girlfriends, lascivious older men and degrading behavior. A chance meeting on Corso Italia, however, forces the girls to realize that they belong together. Yet how can they shed the false friends, bad influences and familial troubles? How can they find their way back to each other and the dreams they shared at the beginning of the summer?

A beach read for strong-willed, independent souls.

Pub Date: June 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-02358-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2012


NonfictionNOTES ON A SHIPWRECK by Davide Enia
by Davide Enia
NonfictionOFF THE RAILS by Beppe Severgnini
by Beppe Severgnini
FictionTHE PIRANHAS by Roberto Saviano
by Roberto Saviano


FictionTHE VIRGIN SUICIDES by Jeffrey Eugenides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
FictionTHE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
by Alice Sebold
ChildrenSPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
by Laurie Halse Anderson