[Entusiasta recensione apparsa sul Tribune firmata da Scarlet McGuire]
‘It is the voice that lifts this novel from being a fascinating story of a peasant exodus from northern Italy to the Pontine Marshes, as part of a fascist bid to reclaim agricultural land, to a magnificent rollicking saga offering a cockeyed version of modern Italian history (while sticking to the facts) which begs to be read. The irreverent voice of the narrator relates,with humour,the adventures of his 17 uncles and aunts under the grip of a gran whose bottom was much appreciated by Mussolini.
This is not a heart-wringing story of poverty and suffering, for the Peruzzi family refuse to be victims; they are the stars of their own soap opera. Pennacchi brilliantly brings them to life, from mild Unclce Adelchi, whose obsession with uniforms ultimately leads him to become a policeman, to Uncle Themistocles, who went off to fight the German in Great War. Uncle Pericles gets the lead role;fascist thug as amiable hothead. Pennacchi makes his characters loveable but they follow Mussolini.
Il Duce decided to drain the Pontine Marshes,near Rome, and bring 2,000 fascist families from northern Italy to work the reclaimed land abutting the newly built Mussolini Canal. Two storey houses were built for each family as part of an enormous model town project. While the narrator lampoons the vanity and excesses of fascism, in particular the fat dictator, he also explains its lure, and documents its failure, through the eyes of the Peruzzi family, and he understands the nostalgia of many Italians for a country which worked. Read the rest of this entry →