... 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.