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.
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.
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.