Anna is 14 and looks after her little brother Astor in the house behind the fence, the rooms are piled high with rubbish, except for their mother’s bedroom where her skeleton lies perfect on the bed.
She goes out to scavenge for food and medicine regularly, not too difficult a task in a world that’s been devoid of adults since a mystery illness swept through Italy killing all of them. Now, a few years later it seems that whatever caused the adults to die is still killing the children as they leave adolescence.
Then Astor leaves the house one day when Anna is scavenging, even though she has impressed on him how dangerous it is. She has to find him but what else will she find?
Because of last year’s Black History Month challenge I realised how unintentionally narrow my reading is, since then I’ve tried to read more authors from around the world and part of that is reading more translations too. This book by Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti, previously a winner of the Strega Prize, seemed a good place to start.
It is beautifully written (and very well translated by Johnathon Hunt). The scenario of a dystopian future society populated only by children is bound to draw comparisons with Lord of the Flies but this has considerably more humanity, Lord of the Flies is a novel fuelled by fear. This novel is driven by hope.
There is desperation and violence but there is also love and kindness. Anna is a complex and interesting character, but easy to feel sympathy for. She remembers her parents and realised that those memories are fading for her brother. She longs to cross the water I to see if there are any adults alive elsewhere but the hope is too precious to her for her to risk it being destroyed by reality.
Definitely worth reading, it gets 4 Bites from me.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.