Read. Think. Write.
The House in Via Mano (published in Italy as Mal di pietre), is Milena Agus’ second novel. The novel won three Italian literary awards and has been a bestseller in Italy, France, and Germany. I read somewhere that a film adaptation of the novel is to follow.
I did not know anything of what I just wrote above when I first came across the tiny volume (120 pages in total). What attracted me to it was the volumes’ cover that looked oddly familiar. And that it was written by an Italian woman, (Milena was born in Genoa to Sardinian parents, and now lives in Cagliari where she teaches at secondary school). In one of my previous lives I lived in Italy for almost two years, the place left a permanent mark in me.
The House in Via Manno is one of those books, and not that there are many of them, every mother should gift to her daughters and make sure they read it. Because it is an exploration of womanhood in the truest sense possible; through the search for perfect love, told in a powerfully whimsical voice of a highly skilled and truly honest writer.
A young Sardinian woman narrates the life of her paternal grandmother; her Nonna. Nonna is an unforgettable character; bewitchingly beautiful, hopelessly romantic … a dreamer with fierce loyalties and unbridled passions.
Nonna is also somewhat crazy, or everyone things so, especially her mother to whom Nona’s unusual and eccentric behaviours brings nothing but worries and shame in the small Sardinian village at the beginning of the Second World War. But Nonna is on the quest to find perfect love and nothing will deter her from it. Worse yet, she freely expresses her passionate feelings to any number of young suitors who are initially attracted by Nonna’s beauty, but soon stop turning up. Nonna is a gifted writer!
In May 1943, Nonna married Nonno and along the way, against the struggles of war, the stunning beauty of Sardinian landscapes, a magical story is told of a family, love, loss and mysterious Veteran, the man of Nonna dreams whom she meets in the autumn of 1950. But nothing can possible prepare the reader for the last few pages and surprise they hide!
I read the book in a night. Once I closed the last page and traced my fingers over the cover, I realized why it looked familiar. Flowery pattern climbing upwards forming a border remained me of a tablecloth my Nonna used to spread over our kitchen table on Sundays, or when we had visitors. And then I remembered that my own grandparents also married in 1943 … and all the stories they told during those years I lived with them, which was all my life, before crossing the oceans.