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Enchantments: A Novel Paperback – February 14, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400033527
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400033522
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,758,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Small clouds lurk at the edge of the sun-drenched days in screenwriter Ferri's (The Son's Room) first novel, making this fictional memoir of a privileged Italian girlhood all the more enchanting. The unnamed young narrator considers her father to be "magical," though she notices his eyes are "like a monster's" and he engages in "uncertain business affairs." Envisioning herself as a "sorrowful tragic heroine," she betrays her beloved sister by transferring classes at school, demands to play the dying Beth in homemade productions of Little Women and sharpens her preteen self-righteousness on her parents. When not helping to stage elaborate circuses in their rambling apartment, her two older brothers hang dolls from curtain rods. But this mesmeric world proves to be as sweet and as fleeting as her rare nighttime treat of a sugar cube moistened with cognac. Sex and death, those twinned symbols of adulthood, drift ever closer, and the lyrical episodes gambol toward a melancholic finale that changes the girl into a grownup. Melissa P.'s recently published erotic diary of an Italian adolescent, 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, begins just beyond the chronological boundaries of Ferri's chaste story (her narrator stands at the threshold of the "gymnasium of seduction"). Both works, equally powerful and idiosyncratic, explore the multiple moments that mark the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–An unnamed Italian girl moves to Paris with her family sometime after World War II. While the story appears to be told in a linear fashion, it is not one in which time seems all that important. Time matters for the preteen narrator as her age informs the tale she tells and how she tells it; what happens to her; and, most importantly, how she relates to her family. Even though the story takes in other places and characters, it always returns to her life with her parents and siblings, her relatives' omnipresence, and their roles. Ferri writes with a deft hand. The book is a series of vignettes, giving the impression of a novel by pointillism. Its appeal comes from the ease with which readers are drawn in and carried along–light and shadows and a sense of enchantment are to be found throughout this coming-of-age story.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Linda Ferri, Enchantments (Knopf, 2005)

Enchantments is a very small, quite lovely little novel that doesn't really seem to be about much of anything until you get to the very end. Thus, it's impossible to tell you what the book is about without ruining it in some way. Just trust me, it really is about something. Kind of.

Enchantments is an impressionist treat, twenty-five small still-lifes that together give us the coming of age of a privileged Italian girl. The girl herself is not all that likeable, when it comes right down to it; she's self-absorbed, mean, and uncommunicative in the extreme. But we're not here to admire the would-be heroine, we're here to admire the scenery. And what scenery it is.

Ferri paints her scenes here with all the subtlety of the truly observant (which is what really gives this away as fiction, not memoir; the narrator couldn't possibly be observant enough to pick up all the lush detail to be found here) and all the mastery of the fictional painter who did a portrait for some guy named Dorian Gray. Everything is ripe, except for those parts that look as if they've already gone over the edge and slipped into decay. There are never enough decayed bits to overwhelm the painting; the flies haven't started buzzing yet, but you can always feel them quivering under the skin of whatever fruit you imagine when you think of the term "still life." It's the interplay between beauty and decay that truly charms the reader here, and charming it is. It's small, readable, and, well, enchanting. *** ˝
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Format: Hardcover
ENCHANTMENTS is enchanting: Linda Ferri creates a touching novel out of fragments of a child's perception of the world in the throes of moving toward that fearsome state of adulthood. And part of the beauty of this 'first novel', INCANTESIMA translated from the Italian by John Casey, is the simple writing style Ferri assumes as she looks as the world from the vantage of a young schoolgirl.

Told in brief chapters (about the same length of the attention span of her narrator who remains nameless), this is the story of an Italian family of comfortable means whose story begins with the birth of Clara, the baby sister of our narrator, who with her two older brothers lead a happy life with their mother and variably magical or monster father. From their time in their native Italy they soon move to Paris where the children must adapt to 'Frenchkids' and the new atmosphere of Parisian attitude - with the help of their daily nanny Dame Dame.

Ferri literally strolls through childhood with these children and their friends and enemies, their moments of simple exaltation and the moments of humiliation. Step by step we are made to feel the enlarging view of the world as the children become ever more observant.

There is a long boat trip to America where once again the terrain and ambience of a strange place are molded through a child's perception. Then once again the family returns to Paris and ultimately confronts the reality of the life cycle in a most touching way.
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Format: Paperback
Enchantments, originally published in Italy (1997) under the title Incantesimi, is Linda Ferri's debut novel. Told in a series of 25 short vignettes, it is narrated by an unnamed Italian girl in the style of a memoir, from the toddler to early teen years. The narrator and her family move from Italy to Paris during the opening scene of this small novel. What follows is an intimate tale of a family whose dynamics are illuminated through summers in Italy, a visit to America and winters in Paris.

Making a cohesive whole out of such a small book is a challenge for any author, but to carry it out in a debut novel and have it result in such a strong voice is a trademark of a gifted new author. Everything about this book is intimate, from the size of the book (measuring only 7.4" x 4.7") to the length of each vignette to the fact that the narrator is never named, although the reader learns the names of all her family members.

Ferri captures the dreamy sense of wonder that permeates a child's life. She uses language to tantalize the reader, drawing one into the world she has created. "...so the fear dissolved, reduced to a bit of a mystery I carried in my pocket when I made a foray up to the attic or down to the cellar." Alone the words don't have much meaning, but the feeling they evoke is of being privy to a private world and language, one inhabited by a creative child who enjoys making words dance and play.

The distinct chapter titles also add to the dream-like state engendered by this novella. Titles such as "the castrator," "perfidy" or "dame dame" add to the mystery, impelling the reader to journey with Ferri just a little longer until, suddenly, the narration ends and the reader is shaken rudely awake.
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