Occhi tra le foglie is Giacomo Pinelli’s latest novel. Originally from Milan, Giacomo lives with his wife and son in Lunigiana, where his father was born.
This Italian novel is set in Parma, Lunigiana and Cornwall. It is a portrayal of a family from the early part of the twentieth century to the present day. Its theme encompasses war, hunger and the desire for revenge.
The novel is the story of the three Lazzeroni sisters, Maria, Fedora and Adriana, and their beloved brother, Giovanni. They lose their father at an early age and are forced to grow up fast, in the midst of war and human suffering. They are brought up by their mother, Giuseppina, and their unmarried aunt, Lisetta, who is devoted to God and to her life of sacrifice.
The women are modest yet brave and aware of the suffering they are destined to endure, while the men are consumed by hate and the desire for revenge. The generations are bound together by interwoven memories and secrets from the past. Behind the facade of a close family, lies the grief of an innocent mother.
The true protagonist and narrator of the story is Giampiero, a lazy and mediocre writer who finds himself involved in a family conflict that he struggles to understand. Intimidated by the life of the family he hopes to be part of, he agrees to help with a plan, mainly to impress his girlfriend rather than through a true desire to help.
Giovanni, the brother of Maria, Fedora and Adriana and a partisan hero when he was young, is now old, ill, and close to death. He realises that the family secrets that he has long hidden, are resurfacing and threatening all that he has achieved. He wants to admit the secret guilt that has always tormented him; the abandonment of Amedeo, his cousin in an orphanage.
While the three sisters live their lives without any remorse, Giovanni discovers where Amedeo lives. He seeks help from his favourite great niece, Silvia, and her boyfriend, Giampiero, the narrator of the story. Silvia readily offers her help but soon changes her mind without explanation and falls out with Giampiero, who, in an attempt to win her and her family over, decides to help Giovanni.
Giampiero’s choice takes him to Cornwall where the people he meets and the truths he unearths on his journey between Penzance and Land’s End, compel him to question, not only his relationship with Silvia but his own existence and what he once deemed to be loyalty and honour.
My thanks to Giacome Pinelli for supplying the text of this review.
Occhi tra le foglie – a Giacomo Pinelli novel appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 15 January 2014.