While at the Book Expo this year in the City, I came across a display for Europa Editions and just loved their titles and covers. I even did a post on how much I loved their covers. The cover for Stefano Benni's Margherita Dolce Vita especially caught my eye. I just love it. So, without reading what it was about, I reserved it at the library.
You know how sometimes when you want to love a book so much and you just don't? Well I definitely didn't have a problem like that with this book. I LOVED it!
Here's the summary:
Margherita (dubbed Margherita Dolce Vita by her grandpa, is a 14-year-old girl living with her family in Italy.
Her father Fausto is "tall and skinny, and he is meteoropathic, meaning his moods change with the weather".
Her mother is Emma, looks "like a used teabag" and "is good as gold, but she has an addiction" which is watching soap operas while smoking imaginary cigarettes.
Her eldest brother, Giacinto, is "like a really stupid version of me (Margherita)" and a soccer hooligan.
Her younger brother Erminio or Heraclitus "is a ball-busting likable little terrorist genius" who also can converse with their grandfather via ESP...or so they both say.
Grandfather's name is Socrates has "done it all" and thinks there are so many toxins in the world that to counteract this, he slowly poisons himself throughout the day...example being eating out of date yogurts and water with bleach.
And Sleepy, their lovable dog with hysterical narcolepsy.
All is well until the day the Cube is built next to their house. The Cube is a modern mansion and the wealthy neighbors start to integrate themselves into this little family's life. Emma stops cooking and starts doing botox treatments and new hairstyles. Fausto tries implants to hide his balding spot and starts working with the neighbor in their mysterious import/export business. Giacinto falls in love with the spoiled daughter and even converts to another soccer team (the horrors!) because of her. And Erminio is drugged complacent by gifts of video games.
Only Margherita finds it all to be strange and starts to investigate because the happy family she loves is slowly deteriorating. And what type of business are the neighbors really into and why isn't she allowed into her father's shed anymore? Oh, and she develops a crush on their odd son who is a type of rebel and crazy institutionalized person all rolled up into one.
I have to say the writing is hilarious, poignant, rich, and beautiful. Even though it's narrated by a 14-year-old, I wouldn't call this a young adult novel. And the ENDING!!! Someone please read this so you can tell me what you think. Ok.
Oh! And totally forgot to mention. This is deeply satirical about consumerism and what it's doing to people. I loved that part but it might not be for everyone but I absolutely loved Margherita.