I’m Not Scared – Niccoló Ammaniti

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I’m Not Scared – Niccoló Ammaniti

Post by Graham on Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:41 pm

The blurb on this 2003 translation from the Italian decidedly oversells it. It is a small book, in more ways than one, just over 200 pages and with a very simple story line. Ammaniti tells it effectively but much of the text is spent evoking a rural Italian village and the scorchingly hot summer of 1978. Here a boy, Michele and the five other children of the village discover a ruined house and Michele is forced to traverse the dangerous structure as a forfeit. He makes a shocking discovery. The adults in the village have conspired to hold a young boy for ransom. Michele keeps it secret, but his humanity is tested against his family loyalty.

The story is narrated by Michele and this child’s-eye view of a dark and twisted adult world should have made it a shoo-in for prizes. None are mentioned* but it does say it’s an international bestseller and ‘now a major motion picture’, reward enough perhaps. It’s the kind of writing that gets top marks in a creative writing class but is not necessarily conducive to best-sellerdom. Mine has been stamped ‘Portobello High, English Dept’, a set text perhaps.

In its favour it reads quickly and has a marvellous sense of the children’s lives and their only partial understanding of the adult’s behaviour. The ending, however, is unsatisfactory, only suggesting what happens to Michele and the hostage and leaving us to guess the fate of the other villagers. According to the Wikipedia page this has been sorted out in the Italian film. Don’t read it unless you want to know the entire plot in advance.

*I would read more of him and checking online I see he has won prizes.

Graham
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