Searching and sorrowful ... This isn’t a recriminatory book ... The House on Via Gemito...has been well served by the translator Oonagh Stransky, whose rendering is as vivid as it is lucid, managing to place elegantly descriptive passages side by side on the page with elaborately pungent Neapolitan insults, reproducing many of the latter in dialect, allowing the long compound words to convey their hostility and contempt on their own.
It is 450 pages of vivid, fluid, richly detailed drama, tormented and hilarious. Originally published in 2000, two years after his father’s death and more than a decade before the other translated novels, it shows us the crucible in which the author’s later style was formed: Coolness and control are defense mechanisms learned in the long struggle with his father ... The novel gains with length. As drama and detail accumulate, we share the boy’s difficulty in finding a steady position vis-à-vis his father ... Starnone’s prose, ably and fluently translated by Oonagh Stransky, is compelling without being showy. He nails down his father in what could seem a tremendous act of revenge but is also a moving celebration of the man’s achievement and a profound consideration of artistic vocation.
His warring desires to destroy his father and banish his father's violence from his own psyche are, by far, the most interesting parts of the book ... Sadly, Starnone gives young Mimí much less time on the page than he does Federí ... He has to retell his father's lies in detail, investigating each one, in order to take their power away; he has to do the same with his memories of Federí abusing him and his long-suffering mother Rusinè. Psychologically, the process makes absolute sense, and is moving to behold. But in a more streamlined novel, Mimí's liberation might move the reader more.
He never fails to fish out just the right detail to insure that his latest somersault sticks the landing ... This balance of ferocious intensity and cool observation gives us the plot, insofar as there is one.
Expansive and winding ... Every character, including Federí, is a full-fledged human being filled with desire, regret, resentment, bitterness, and hope. At the same time, the Neapolitan setting comes equally alive. Federí married his wife, Rusinè, in the midst of the Second World War, and the confused aftermath of that war, as Italy struggled to regain standing, is beautifully described. Starnone, it seems, can do no wrong. A complexly structured masterpiece that doubles back on itself in order to move forward.