Tobia e l’Angelo by Susanna Tamaro

Tobia e l’Angelo by Susanna TamaroTobia e l'angelo by Susanna Tamaro
Published by Mondadori on January 1, 1970
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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Il nonno aveva ragione, ogni cosa ha una sua voce. Ma c'erano anche cose senza voce, il futuro, ad esempio, o le domande senza nessuna risposta. Ce n'erano tante nella sua testa. Addormentandosi, Martina le vide: sembravano luci fioche su una sponda lontana. Il galeone veleggiava in direzione opposta, dritto verso la grande notte silente di un mare senza fari, di un cielo senza stelle.


Last year I read three books in Italian, so I decided to try for three again during 2014. Last month I realized I hadn’t even started on that goal! So I picked up a middle grade novel by Susanna Tamaro, Tobia e l’Angelo. This is the second Tamaro novel I’ve read (the first was Il grande albero last year), and I’m thinking I need to go ahead and read everything she’s published. I love how her writing style is completely accessible to me as a non-native speaker; it’s simple, but the way she phrases things is so very perfect and just stunning. (To be honest, I feel like that is a trait of the Italian language overall.)

8½-year-old Martina is a thoughtful, questioning child who thinks about everything far more deeply than her peers (and many adults). This makes it hard for other children, her teachers, and her parents to connect with her. There’s a touching moment when Martina first realizes she’s different, that her curious musings make others uncomfortable.

She has a very difficult home life. I wouldn’t say her household was actually abusive, but it was extremely . . . intense. This affects Martina in a very profound way. She is incredibly lonely and unhappy; her time with her grandfather is the bright light in her life. Later she gets a different perspective on her parents (and vice versa), but the majority of the story is a portrayal of the way Martina has internalized her environment.

There’s a little bit of magical realism in this one, as well as a theological undertone (“angelo” means “angel” and Tamaro is a devout Catholic). And boy, does Tamaro know how to create tension in a story. She has us fall in love with Martina’s grandfather so that we feel as connected to him as Martina does, then she has us worry and wonder about him for most of the book! By the end I was tempted to cheat via Google Translate, because my slow reading speed couldn’t keep up with that sense of “must find out what happened, now!”

Unfortunately, this has yet to be translated into English, but I highly recommend Tobia e l’Angelo for anyone looking for a good book at an intermediate Italian level.