Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

Publisher: Viking Adult
Categories: Coming of Age, Contemporary Women, Italy
Source: Netgalley

Anna and Francesca are on the brink of everything: high school, adulthood, and the edge of ambition in their provincial town. It’s summer in Piombino, Italy, and in their skimpy bathing suits, flaunting their newly acquired curves, the girls suddenly have everyone in their thrall. This power opens their imagination to a destiny beyond Piombino; the resort town of Elba is just a ferry ride away and yet they’ve never dared to go. Maybe the future is waiting for them there, or somewhere beyond.

When their friendship suffers a blow, the girls set off on their own only to discover that their budding sexuality takes them further than they expect, though not as far as their dreams. As their choices take them to a painful crossroads, the girls must reconnect if they have any hope of escaping their small town destinies.

In this poetic, prizewinning debut, Silvia Avallone captures the lost innocence of a generation. Harrowing yet ultimately redemptive, Swimming to Elba is a story about the power of friendship, and the way that family, friendship, and economics shape our world.

My Thoughts:

This book explores the transition from adolescence to adulthood in a gritty and emotional way. This transition is never easy, but it’s especially hard for Anna and Francesca. They live in a poverty stricken town next to a dying steel mill.

In Piombino, drug addiction is prevalent, abuse is frequent, and criminal activity is routine. I don’t believe I’ve ever read about more despondent characters.

This novel nearly suffocated me with it’s hopelessness. It made me uncomfortable as well. Reading about these young girls using their sexuality left me feeling squeamish.

And yet…

While Swimming to Elba is far from a cheerful story I found it powerful and important. Anna and Francesca are still on my mind. They won’t soon be forgotten.

20 thoughts on “Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

  1. Mmmm..if it left you squeamish I don't think this suits my reading tastes. Too bad because I love books set in Italy. The part about prevalent drug use and promiscuity is not surprising to me since I hear about this from my own cousins living in Italy.


  2. I'm glad I passed on this one. I almost requested a copy because I love reading about Italy but I thought the subject would be too depressing. I got that awful feeling of hopelessness when I read The Orchardist. After I finished that book I had to sit in the sun for a awhile and try and soak up some happiness after spending time with such depressing characters.


  3. Wow, this book sounds like it's much deeper and grittier than I initially thought from reading the book's description — I think I'd read about in in the publisher's catalog. I think it can be a good thing that you felt uncomfortable and will remember the characters; it seems like a strong testament to the power of the writing. Sounds like a good book!


  4. \”They live in a poverty stricken town next to a dying steel mill.\” This sounds like my area of Michigan actually.This book sounds pretty intense ~ but that is usually a good thing. A book that can make you feel something, good or bad, is a sign of something worth reading. I will have to give this a try.


  5. It's definitely intense, I think you'd dig it! I just finished a book wherein a little girl from Africa moves to Michigan. She thinks she's moving to \”destroyedmichygan\”. That just cracked me up 😉


  6. This is why I follow way too many book blogs 😉 I saw this one on Netgalley, now I know not to request it. Doesn't sound like my type of read, at all…


  7. Strangely enough I just saw this on a blog that recommended it! But I have a certain 'taste' in books I read, and clearly by looking at what you read I'd rather go with your recommendation 😉


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