Nic­colò Am­man­iti Jonathan Hunt (Trans­la­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Canon­gate Books (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $15 (272pp) 978-1-78211-834-3

The novel em­pha­sizes how, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances, there’s room for be­lief in a fu­ture.

Nic­colò Am­man­iti imag­ines the fall­out of an epi­demic fever in his grip­ping, post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Anna.

Anna will in­spire com­par­i­son with The Lord of the Flies, given the clas­sic novel’s por­trayal of a dis­in­te­grat­ing society. But this twenty-first cen­tury take on cat­a­strophic iso­la­tion is a less sym­bolic, more in­ti­mate ac­count of sib­ling loy­alty. When no one over the age of four­teen is left to im­pose or­der, Anna and her brother, As­tor, sur­vive in Si­cily un­til his dis­ap­pear­ance forces Anna away from their fam­ily farm to find him. Pre­cious, splin­tered mem­o­ries of a civ­i­lized past con­trast bril­liantly with a burned, law­less world.

Much of the plot cen­ters on Anna’s hunt for food. Pop­u­lated with skele­tons and feral dogs, the eerie land­scape show­cases the de­tri­tus that once be­longed to the liv­ing. From pho­to­graphs to tinned ragouts, cloth­ing to half-charged bat­ter­ies, what’s left builds a por­trait of mun­dane ex­cess turned ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ruin.

Fit­tingly, Anna has lit­tle time to re­flect. De­spite the knowl­edge that she, too, may suc­cumb to the virus, her con­cern re­mains with the day-to-day. A keen fo­cus on the task at hand builds emo­tional res­o­nance. With­out dwelling on it, the work makes it clear how de­spair al­ways lingers.

A mat­ter-of-fact ap­proach high­lights tac­tile de­tails, mo­tion, and mem­o­ries that are not so much bit­ter­sweet as they are sim­ply rapidly re­ced­ing. On oc­ca­sion, death borders on the grotesque, but the book avoids bleak­ness. Rem­nants of things that once made life bear­able, in­clud­ing mu­sic and fairy tales, of­fer nec­es­sary light­ness. Even tribal al­le­giances formed by other chil­dren re­veal vul­ner­a­bil­ity be­neath the vis­ceral night­mare. Pi­etro, a teen whose path briefly crosses Anna’s, es­pe­cially stands out as a re­minder that peo­ple of­ten pos­sess an es­sen­tial good­ness that can’t be ex­tin­guished.

Anna is wisely cast as nei­ther an ex­cep­tional, heroic sur­vivor nor a vic­tim of his­tory—she

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