BOOK REVIEW / Vittorio goes sour among the tomatoes: 'In a Glass House' - Nino Ricci: Sinclair Stevenson, 14.99 pounds
Saturday 13 August 1994
Ricci describes the Italians who settle in Ontario as creating a profoundly limited social world for themselves, prejudiced against practically everybody, from Lebanese and Mexican labourers, or dumb Anglos with their funereal supper parties, to the newer immigrants from home: 'backward, thickheaded' peasants arriving from the wrong valleys.
In this atmosphere Vittorio lives a life which is shrunk tight around a competitive axis of belonging and not belonging: 'I felt a kind of rage at my exclusion, at his power to wound me when I wanted to think of myself as somehow his better,' he says of a mistrusted friend. When his victimised half-sister becomes glancingly real to him, he loses her at once: 'I had a sudden awareness of her in her unknownness, heard her footsteps behind me like my own shadow suddenly taken solid shape and become a stranger to me.'
Nor does he ever feel truly close to his father; their final attempt at communication is via a set of letters which demonstrate more than anything that they have no written language in common. Vittorio is even divided from himself, describing repeatedly, 'a hollowness at the centre of me'; a 'sourness in me'; how, 'there was nothing inside me that was true, not even the silent hate I bore'.
In A Glass House is often very poorly punctuated, with numerous sentences left drooping across commas: 'I was eighteen, had never dated a girl, made love to one.' These cumbersome refinements almost enhance the mood being created, but the mood is draining.
Though Vittorio is only seven at the start of the book, every wound that he explores from his childhood is filtered through an adult sensibility. At one high point he remarks: 'Somehow I'd missed the simplest things, the simplest possibilities, that we might somehow have shared our lives, been human, that it would have cost us so little to be simply ourselves.'
The reader wishes also, strongly, that Vittorio could simply be himself; however, the depressive recollections never reach the point where the character being described coincides with the more sophisticated describing voice. Though we may feel sympathy for someone so profoundly unfulfilled, Vittorio leaves a lugubrious impression that dominates the novel. A third instalment with no resolution might be just too much to bear.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners