Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello

Review published on June 5, 2018.

This novel is the first of Italian writer Elena Varvello’s works to be translated into English, and it’s an impressive debut. Set in rural Italy in 1978 the book tells of sixteen year old Elia Furenti, and his relationship with his parents. His father is, in a way, the main character and driver of the plot, as much of the book relates his mental problems and his disintegration after he loses his job.

But entwined with this is a mystery, of the murder of a boy and the disappearance of a girl who is well known to Elia’s family. Elia also has to cope with an uneasy and brief sexual relationship with Anna, the mother of his friend Stefano. This is further complicates as Anna, who has recently returned to the village, is also an old school friend of his father.

The main theme of the novel, however, is not who committed the crimes, but the effect of all this upheaval on the life of Elia and the community. This is all described in simple but very effective language. I cannot fault the translation by Alex Valente which shows no evidence of being written in anything but English.

The book kept me interested throughout by its moving portrayals of family emotions and by a need to discover not so much ‘whodunnit’ as to why. Near the end of the novel all seems to have been made clear, but the real message seems to be ‘what is the truth?’ The reader is left to make the decision about this mesmerising coming of age story.

Sue Glynn 4/3

Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello
Two Roads 9781473654891 hbk May 2018

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