... a big, bold, all-encompassing novel ... Through short, perfectly selected and astutely crafted scenes, Bonvicini depicts episodes from the lives of Olivia and Valerio over the next four decades in an Italy where corruption--in both personal lives and the society at large--is endemic ... High drama and moments of great wisdom flesh out themes centered on the perils of upward mobility, appearances for appearance's sake and allegiance to marriage and family. Chilling, stark realities force some characters--including a very strong, vividly rendered supporting cast--to become victims of the dark era in which they live. In stunning prose, translated by Antony Shugaar, Bonvicini renders an intricately plotted contemporary Italian epic where the fate of her star-crossed lovers is magnified by the crushing influence of familial and societal forces.
In a novel focused on dark, messy relationships, acclaimed Italian writer Bonvicini creates satisfying characters who are charming, short-sighted, selfish, and loving ... Her rendering of the politics and social structure of Italy from 1975 to 2013 have a nuanced authority, and the blend of the personal and political feels authentic and adds depth and significance to the story ... Readers will appreciate the star-crossed pain Bonvicini delivers from start to finish.
Bonvicini spends just enough pages taking the reader...inside the opulent yet fearful world of kidnapping fears, armed guards on the way to and from school, and, as one character puts it, bombs going off like in wartime. Then she cuts the action and shifts the scene; much like the book’s two lovers, readers are never quite allowed to get completely comfortable in any era of the story before being whisked away to some new time ... It’s an alluring template, hampered only slightly here by the fact that both Olivia and especially Valerio oscillate between being simpletons and being nonentities. All the narrative’s older characters, particularly Morganti grandmother Manon, are so consistently more interesting than the two stars that some readers may find themselves grumbling ... Neither author nor translator seems like a convincing culprit, but somebody’s guilty of the many, many crimes against style, imagery, and even diction that fill almost every page of this book ... Either Bonvicini’s original prose is every bit as choked with the Italian originals of all these cliches and lazy idioms, or else Shugaar decided to leaven out a lifetime of excellent translations by tossing up a lousy one. Regardless of who committed the crime, the victim is obvious: if the reader can master the mental gymnastics of enjoying a story while overlooking practically everything about how that story is executed, then The Year of Our Love (in this very prettily designed edition from Other Press) will certainly exert real charm.
The translator’s introduction is an essential companion to the world of the book ... Thanks to Shugaar’s rich vocabulary, even readers unfamiliar with the original are able to grasp the social importance of the novel’s dialects ... The translator has managed to painlessly insert clarifying notes within the text wherever appropriate or necessary ... There are several instances when Shugaar has chosen to include the English rendering of a whole sentence or paragraph in brackets, right after the original, with the aim of providing a glimpse into the natural flow of the primary language, as well as into the significance of vernacular the author used to underscore a particular detail (e.g., a character’s vulgar slang or a song well known for its rhymes) ... No matter how many miles or months separate [the protagonists], their shared past is but a thought away. Herein lies the strength of Bonvicini’s novel. She gradually expands the world surrounding the most intimate human emotions, then reminds the reader of inevitably missed opportunities in a way that’s almost cathartic ... The final promise is not bleak, but full of forgiveness and hope—after all is said and done, life is never bigger or smaller than the combination of magic and pasta. Especially in Italy.
Bonvicini traces the decades-long relationship between Olivia Morganti, from a wealthy family of builders, and Valerio Carneval, the son of the Morganti family’s servants ... Bonvicini’s is not a typical love story. Most of the characters, including Olivia and Valerio, shrug off infidelity and divorce. Keenly observant Valerio narrates the novel in a formal, serious voice. Olivia and her grandmother Manon are well-developed, vibrant characters with virtues and flaws ... This book is recommended for readers who like an unconventional love story and are interested in the political and social upheaval in Italy during the late 20th century.
A childhood friendship ebbs and flows over the course of several tumultuous decades in Italy’s recent past ... A diverse collection of secondary characters, ranging from careless social elites to scrappy urban playmates, support and undermine Olivia and Valerio while the plot unfolds in cinematic settings including Olivia’s family’s villa; the working-class area of Rome where Valerio spends much of his later youth; and the ski slopes of Cortina. Valerio recounts the meandering story of their long liaison and ponders the roles of fate and self-determination over the course of a lifetime, echoing some of his (not to be underestimated) father’s thoughts about the inevitabilities of relationships ... Bonvicini’s star-crossed soul mates are ready for their miniseries.