Recently we at Reflections were given the opportunity to review An Italian Obsession, a self-published fictional coming-of-age tale by Kfir Luzzatto. After reading the synopsis of the story, I decided that it looked really interesting and decided to give it a try. My reasoning was that I would be able to possibly relate with the main character of the book, being that he was a man coming of age and would deal with similar problems that all men face during adolescence (hormones, relationships, defiance towards parents, etc). Although the story takes place in Italy during the 60’s and 70’s, I figured there would be enough similar themes to make it worth my while. So, I dove into it.
An Italian Obsession begins with the simple life of Roberto Lucci, a young boy growing up in Milan, Italy in the 1960’s. Although his elementary school is segregated by gender and he rarely gets to see the girls in his class, that doesn’t bother him and his classmates. They are at the stage where girls are still an annoyance and not an attraction. All that changes, however, when he sees Alessandra. Fast forwarding a number of years, Roberto meets up with her by chance over a trip to a fellow friend’s lake house. Although they talk, Roberto is forcefully distracted by Yulia, a girl who is on the trip and wants Roberto for herself. Finally, months later, Roberto is able to summon up the courage to talk to Alessandra and talk to her about the lake house trip. He corrects some of the preconceived notions that Alessandra had about him, and reassures her that he didn’t do anything with Yulia, and that he has instead always wanted her. Alessandra is relieved, and the two begin a slow courtship. The days they spend together are the happiest of Roberto’s life, and he feels as if he is in heaven, until one event brings it all crashing down. Ever since the lake party, Roberto had begun smoking cigarettes, and in order to save some money, he had begun selling them with an older woman in his neighborhood illegally. The financial police eventually catch on to the scheme and arrest Roberto. Although he is able to escape jail by providing information about the older woman’s organization in which he played a part, Roberto is punished by his father and sent to a boarding school. This exile then begins a series of events that will change Roberto’s life forever. What will become of his relationship with his parents? Will he ever see Alessandra again?
Although this work began at a slow pace, I really didn’t mind. I’m always a fan of books that explore a slice of “normal” life, such as Little Children for example, because even though the story might be relatively banal at first, life always has a way of making things interesting later on. I believe that works like this make the watershed moments that much more powerful, as we become invested in these seemingly simple stories enough to be really impacted by the powerful parts. An Italian Obsession did exactly that, as I was pulled in to Roberto’s seemingly simple yet interesting life, following him as he grew up and had relationships, experiences with drugs, and fights with his father. It was no surprise then, that I was completely caught off guard when the real stuff started happening. (Spoiler alert: I’ll reveal some important parts now). When he tampered with his father’s car, leading to the death of his family in an auto accident, I almost couldn’t believe it. It was so markedly different from what had happened in the story up to this point. The only real complaint I had about this, however, was that it seemed extremely out of character for Roberto. I know that his experience away from Alessandra was what had changed him, but I found that to change him into a killer was a slight stretch. Even so, I eventually realized that Roberto’s mind must have become warped because of how his father prevented him from seeing Alessandra, who at that point had become his whole life. Even so, there’s no doubt that this story was phenomenal and made me impatient to see what would happen next. Mr. Luzzatto is an expert in character development, and his vocabulary is outstanding! This book stands out as one of the best (structure and content wise) that I’ve read in a while. I’m definitely a newly minted fan of Mr. Luzzatto, and can’t wait to see what else he has published. If you like coming-of-age tales, or even just enjoy a superbly written story that will pull you in, give this a try!
4 out of 5 Stars
An Italian Obsession by Kfir Luzzatto
eBook: 228 pages
Special thanks to Mr. Luzzatto for sending my review copy.