March 26, 2013

Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone



Publisher: Viking Adult
Categories: Coming of Age, Contemporary Women, Italy
Source: Netgalley

Description:

Anna and Francesca are on the brink of everything: high school, adulthood, and the edge of ambition in their provincial town. It’s summer in Piombino, Italy, and in their skimpy bathing suits, flaunting their newly acquired curves, the girls suddenly have everyone in their thrall. This power opens their imagination to a destiny beyond Piombino; the resort town of Elba is just a ferry ride away and yet they've never dared to go. Maybe the future is waiting for them there, or somewhere beyond.


When their friendship suffers a blow, the girls set off on their own only to discover that their budding sexuality takes them further than they expect, though not as far as their dreams. As their choices take them to a painful crossroads, the girls must reconnect if they have any hope of escaping their small town destinies.

In this poetic, prizewinning debut, Silvia Avallone captures the lost innocence of a generation. Harrowing yet ultimately redemptive, Swimming to Elba is a story about the power of friendship, and the way that family, friendship, and economics shape our world.

My Thoughts:

This book explores the transition from adolescence to adulthood in a gritty and emotional way. This transition is never easy, but it's especially hard for Anna and Francesca. They live in a poverty stricken town next to a dying steel mill.

In Piombino, drug addiction is prevalent, abuse is frequent, and criminal activity is routine. I don't believe I've ever read about more despondent characters.

This novel nearly suffocated me with it's hopelessness. It made me uncomfortable as well. Reading about these young girls using their sexuality left me feeling squeamish.

And yet...

While Swimming to Elba is far from a cheerful story I found it powerful and important. Anna and Francesca are still on my mind. They won't soon be forgotten.



20 comments:

  1. Mmmm..if it left you squeamish I don't think this suits my reading tastes. Too bad because I love books set in Italy. The part about prevalent drug use and promiscuity is not surprising to me since I hear about this from my own cousins living in Italy.

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    1. I haven't read many books set in Italy. I was surprised by the themes of this book, that's for sure!

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  2. Hmmm...reading a book like that is tough. I appreciate knowing it beforehand, so I can mentally prepare myself!
    Time for something fluffy now? :)

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    1. Right after this one I read The World's Strongest Librarian :) It was an excellent choice after something sooo heavy!

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  3. Swimming to Elba is next on my list. Though I knew this book would deal with difficult topics, I wasn't sure to what degree. Thanks for the heads up, I'll have to plan something light for afterward.

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    1. Yes, definitely do that Monika! You'll need it ;)

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  4. I'm glad I passed on this one. I almost requested a copy because I love reading about Italy but I thought the subject would be too depressing. I got that awful feeling of hopelessness when I read The Orchardist. After I finished that book I had to sit in the sun for a awhile and try and soak up some happiness after spending time with such depressing characters.

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    1. You might have made the right decision. It really was depressing and I needed a moment or two to gather my thoughts after reading it. It was absolutely powerful but..wow, it knocked me over.

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  5. Well, sign me up! At the right time, I'm all for a good hopeless, but well written, read.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one drawn to these type of books! I don't know why but I dig a book that can kick me in the gut.

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  6. Wow, this book sounds like it's much deeper and grittier than I initially thought from reading the book's description -- I think I'd read about in in the publisher's catalog. I think it can be a good thing that you felt uncomfortable and will remember the characters; it seems like a strong testament to the power of the writing. Sounds like a good book!

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    1. "it seems like a strong testament to the power of the writing." YES! Exactly :) It's not pretty but it is powerful and very well written.

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  7. "They live in a poverty stricken town next to a dying steel mill." This sounds like my area of Michigan actually.

    This book sounds pretty intense ~ but that is usually a good thing. A book that can make you feel something, good or bad, is a sign of something worth reading. I will have to give this a try.

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    1. It's definitely intense, I think you'd dig it!

      I just finished a book wherein a little girl from Africa moves to Michigan. She thinks she's moving to "destroyedmichygan". That just cracked me up ;)

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  8. This is why I follow way too many book blogs ;) I saw this one on Netgalley, now I know not to request it. Doesn't sound like my type of read, at all...

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    1. Well, now you know! ;) That's the great thing about book blogs, you can get a good sense of what would work for you...and what wouldn't! ;)

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  9. Strangely enough I just saw this on a blog that recommended it! But I have a certain 'taste' in books I read, and clearly by looking at what you read I'd rather go with your recommendation ;)

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    1. It's a fairly dark read but also very powerful. I enjoyed it :)

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  10. Interesting! I got this from NetGalley and am excited to read it.

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    1. I hope you like it, I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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