Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

"Anna" by Niccolo Ammaniti (Einaudi, 2015)

We follow a girl, Anna, then a dog, getting their life stories. The girl's parents died when she was 9 with a 4 year-old brother, Astor. Their deceased mother left notes which are info-dumped on p.41 so we know that a disease wiped out all adults and will kill the children when they reach about 14. Their mother also left notes on what to do with her body - not the only macabre detail in the book. The dog was deliberately mistreated to make him aggressive.

The setting is Sicily. Drought and fire have added to the problems. Anna wanders, looking for food and batteries, finding corpses and, sometimes, children. One night (30th Oct, 2020) she stays out. On her return her brother's gone. She going looking for him. The dog she met and injured before follows her.

She gets inside the grounds of a hotel which is being used as a base by a group of kids. It's also rumoured to be the location of an old lady who can heal people with the disease. Inside she's found by Pietro, who she's met before. Otherwise level-headed, he thinks a particular type of sports shoe will save him.

They happen to be there at the "festa della Picciridduna" when a giant figurine made of bones with tractor wheels as eyes is set alight. They see Picciridduna, a deformed, sexless human. Anna finds Astor, but he doesn't want to go with her because she's told him lies. Pietro saves him. The 3 of them plus the dog get away and for a while spend an idyllic time by the coast. Anna has her first period. Pietro has an accident. We're told that he dies in three days, then we told about his last three days, and about his earlier life. We learn more about the disease, that it killed half the world's population in a month, and that Pietro was involved with mercy-killing.

Sister, brother and dog head for Messina, still 4 days away. They find a pedalo and reach the mainland. There they find the shoes, but only one pair, they wear one shoe each.

"The Road" meets "Lord of the Flies". I could have done without the sports shoes. The unlikely dog at times becomes a symbol of Good/Evil. On p.248 there's a bit of philosophical speculation - Anna decides there's no such thing as free-will. I liked the story-telling and especially the set-piece at the hotel.

Other reviews

  • John Burnside (The inevitable comparison, here, is with Lord of the Flies ... We can all become tyrants, or thieves, if due pressure is exerted. In recognising this, and in avoiding the easy narrative tensions offered by moral simplification, Ammaniti sets a new standard in post-apocalyptic fiction, while creating a world that, populated by desperate innocents, proves far more frightening than any stock cannibals-in-monster-trucks scenario.)
  • Bookmunch (engaging if somewhat episodic, the kind of book that could happily be shared between adults and teens)
  • Tommaso Carlo Mascolo (This novel has all the characteristics of Ammaniti’s works: a realistic language, the use of a grotesque tone and strong characters.)

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