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All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays

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It’s about two families in Italy, one family well off and one not so well off before World War II and during it. No, I haven’t read Family Lexicon yet, but it’s great to hear that you rate it so highly as I definitely want to get to it. Emeric Pressburger’s 1966 novel The Glass Pearls, now reissued, is a very different type of war-themed fiction. By the war’s end, Natalia was in her late twenties, a widow with three young children and a debut novella under her belt. It’s also clearly a novel informed by personal experiences and memories, written by a woman who lived through the turmoil of a country at war – a point that adds a genuine sense of poignancy and authenticity to the story as it unfolds.

But we can acknowledge that these yesterdays – which Ginzburg fictionalised, but which were lived by families across Europe and the world – are all of ours, and reverberate today as we face a fresh wave of political and social turmoil.Another singular feature of the novel is Ginzburg’s wry humour and deadpan wit as reflected in her striking prose style. Anna, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl in a small town in northern Italy, finds herself pregnant after a brief romance. I think it will tick a lot of boxes for you – strong female characters, a focus on family and evolving relationships, the WW2 setting, and an evocative sense of place.

The novel’s network of romantic entanglements is suitably complex but relatable – a delight to observe!I remember the characters and their tenacity, how they grow up, find love, start families, and find their voices amid fascism and war. As war breaks out in Europe, the moral world of the novel becomes increasingly haunted by the brutality of fascism, and by the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

Maybe this will be the one that tips me over the edge, unless you would recommend a different one as a better starting point? While I’ve enjoyed several reissues of Natalia Ginzburg’s work in recent years, All Our Yesterdays feels like the one I’ve been waiting to read – a rich, multilayered evocation of Italian family life spanning the duration of the Second World War. There are some lovely touches of dry humour throughout, as the author maintains a wry sense of detachment from life’s absurdities, despite the gravity of events. A paragraph in this narrative could run across an entire page, sentences drag on with determined storytelling, time shifts, and in between all this is a focused narrative voice that is so confident of the story being told that it makes you a confident reader. She was a plump girl, pale and indolent, dressed in a pleated skirt and a faded blue pullover, and not very tall for her fourteen years.That said, I think these characters may well be based on real people, so they’re probably relatively close to the truth even if they might seems a little clichéd to us as readers. Ginzburg’s work is concerned, it seems to me more than anything, with the distinction between what is right and what is wrong. We are also introduced to the rather colourful character Cenzo Rena, an older friend of the family rumoured to be rich with his own house and estate in Italy’s rural south.

In 1952, when the book was first published, many Italian readers must have thought that ‘ nostri’ included them. Ginzburg, especially, is turning out to be another favourite author and I’ve read and throughly enjoyed her books – Family Lexicon and The Dry Heart – in the past. We are introduced to our protagonist Anna whose father, an ageing widower, is moody, temperamental, and a staunch anti-Fascist engrossed in composing his memoir most notably his harsh views on Fascism. It’s 1965 and Karl Braun – formerly Dr Otto Reitmüller – is living low in London, eking out a living as a piano tuner. It was as if her writing was a very important secret that I had been waiting all my life to discover .As you say, I suspect it’s in a similar league to All Our Yesterdays with its broad scope and focus on family dynamics. She was alone with Giuma’s face that gave her a stab of pain at her heart, and every day she would be going back with Giuma amongst the bushes on the river bank, every day she would see again that face with the rumpled forelock and the tightly closed eyelids, that face that had lost all trace both of words and of thoughts for her. Há um não sei quê de Virginia Woolf no trabalho de Natalia Ginzburg: seja um passo marcadamente repetitivo que ecoa os tempos de rame-rame da guerra; seja uma certa secura isenta de sentimentalismos vagos que caracteriza uma prosa realista e normalmente masculina.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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