With echoes of Elena Ferrante (and Elsa Morante’s Arturo's Island and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse), Lesser Islands by Lorenza Pieri is a thoroughly engaging account of a young woman's tumultuous relationship with her family and her home on the tiny island of Giglio off the Tuscan coast of Italy. The story shines in its descriptions of adolescence and the bonds of sisterhood as six-year-old Teresa narrates the story of her family--sister Catarina, their mother Elena, father Vittorio, and their beloved nonna—a story spanning 40 years that is guided by a sense of nostalgia for the long, idyllic summers spent lazily on their beautiful, remote island. But as time winds its way through their lives, the lyrical descriptions of the beautiful island landscape and carefree days of childhood give way to the accompanying disillusionments and disappointments of adulthood, their lives upended and forever changed by outside forces (I especially loved how the novel is steeped in recent Italian politics and history, bracketed by two, big historical events which shape the novel and the lives of the islanders!) Interestingly translated into English as a class project by a professor and her five students, Lesser Islands is a coming-of-age tale that is funny and tender, moving and enchanting. Ed loved and highly recommends!— Ed
WINNER: Capalbio International Prize・Carlo Marincovich Prize・2017 PEA Award
An absorbing family saga taking place over four decades and centered on the Tuscan island of Giglio--a seemingly idyllic place where the story of two sisters and the history of Italy meet in unexpected, transformative ways.
A tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean with fewer than a thousand inhabitants. An older sister, a combative mother, a hedonistic father, a grandmother who fought in the Resistance, a wild younger brother. These are the people and the place that Teresa--the younger daughter and narrator--tries to escape from, eager to find a place in the world that she can call her own.
But soon enough she'll have to reckon with the island, with the bittersweet distance separating her from her beloved yet domineering sister, and with the long shadow of the darkest moments in Italian history. Guided by nostalgia for the long, bright summer that was her childhood, Teresa will have to confront her condition, perceived or real, as the "lesser" one--accepting herself and rediscovering what she thought she had to escape from.
Between a coming-of-age novel, a family saga, and a parable on the last forty years of Italian history, Lorenza Pieri's novel is an intense and luminous book, in which language has the magnetic force of the stark, beautiful landscape that has inspired it.
"A luminous voice, of the likes of Elsa Morante and Elena Ferrante."--Vanity Fair