A novel from Italian author Manfredi (THE IDES OF MARCH
, 2009, etc.) that follows three generations of the Bruni family, sharecroppers in the countryside near Bologna, Italy. A modern chronicle, it begins just before World War I and ends in the politically turbulent period after World War II.
Callisto and Clerice Bruni have a large family: seven sons and two daughters. They farm a large piece of land where they grow hemp and wheat. They maintain a vineyard and pastureland. Close to the house is a large stable known as Hotel Bruni. Here the poor and the vagabonds stop for a crust of bread, a bowl of soup, a bed in the hay. Travelers passing through tell stories of other times, as remote from this dark manger as the cities of Tuscany. Country folk, with little education, they speak a dialect distinct from Italian and obey old customs. Weddings, births, deaths, the atrocities of two wars, jealousy, ill luck, suspicion and a pair of terrible decisions divide the family from their wealth, their land, their ideals and, ultimately, from each other. There is a pleasing simplicity in the style, a sober summing up of each character, a sense that character is fate while curses retain power. Raffaele, called Floti, is the Bruni we follow furthest. Advising his sister, he says, “Listening to a good story is like dreaming, but then you have to wake up, and life...well, life is another thing. Don’t ever forget that.” This novel is a fulcrum, tipping toward life and fate, then back towards the dream of something better.
A solid, credible, satisfying examination of the destruction of a way of life.