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Swimming to Elba: A Novel Hardcover – June 14, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (June 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023585
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,659,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A beach read for strong-willed, independent souls.”
(Kirkus)

“Readers will devour this richly detailed, sensual bildungsroman.”

(Booklist)

“An engaging debut.”
(Publishers Weekly)

International praise:
“Powerful. As trenchant as it is true.”
Le Parisien

“A galvanizing social novel, spacious and strenuous, like a film that would have been cosigned by Ken Loach and Gus Van Sant.”
Libération

“Characters unlike any you’ll find in Italian literature nowadays.”
Goffredo Fofi

“A book that skims close to the realm of the epic in its description of the desperate and empty lust for life of a tribe of young people and the small and vast tragedies that emerge from their struggles.”
—Giorgio De Rienzo, Corriere delle Sera

“A novel capable of holding together—in the drift or in the tragedy of many lives—the thread of a hope that springs from two young lives that may be destined to fit together.”
—Giovanni Tesio, Tuttolibri—La Stampa

“Silvia Avallone has a gift for painting a believable picture of not only her two leading characters, but of a crowd of actors: grief-stricken women, lazy factory workers, brutish thugs who frequent lap-dancing bars, young girls and boys who want to make the world their own. . . . Something verging on the operatic elegantly fills the pages of this remarkable novel.”
—Giovanni Pacchiano, Il Sole 24 Ore

“With Silvia Avallone, we are in the presence of a natural, original, and untutored talent, capable of capturing the contradictions of her own time in a rebellious, heartbreaking way. But the greatness of [Swimming to Elba], at once carnal and chaste [...] lies in the powerful way that it identifies beauty and friendship as the two decisive, all-encompassing emotions of adolescence. It is a book that demands love, in its truthfulness, in its refusal to turn away from the life-giving breath of poetry.”
—Giuseppe Conte, Il Giornale

“Avallone skillfully tugs every thread in her tapestry with an artist’s hand. . . . This Avallone is a force of nature, with her exacting, precise prose, as in the spectacular opening passages.”
—Massimo Onofri, Avvenire

“Following in the footsteps of the great tradition of a Tuscan and European author like Romano Bilenchi.”
—Davide Barili, Gazzetta di Parma

Swimming to Elba is intelligent and well written. It deserves its success: Silvia Avallone gives us a penetrating vision of the way the new proletariat lives. She narrates that story very well. I was reminded of Tuscan authors such as Carlo Cassola and Vasco Pratolini. She is a modern writer, but you can sense those roots.”
—Dacia Maraini, Oggi

“From this first novel, [Silvia Avallone] might one day write a novel that is to literature what Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento was for film.”
—Gianfranco Franchi, Secolo d’Italia

 “A masterpiece of fine writing, literature in its purest state, as if the words had flowed like molten steel out of the blast furnace, to recount perfect characters and a magnificent story.”
(Caterina Soffici, Il Riformista)

About the Author

Silvia Avallone is an Italian poet and novelist. This first novel—published in Italy as Acciaio—won second place in the 2010 Premio Strega and rights have been sold in fourteen countries. She is lives in Italy.

Antony Shugaar’s recent translations include A Pimp’s Notes by Giorgio Faletti, The Nun by Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto, and Sandokan by Nanni Balestrini, for which he received an NEA translation fellowship. He lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Customer Reviews

Too much goes on, and, therefore, too much is left dangling.
P. Taylor
I would call this book a bit gritty for a Y. A. book and would not encourage any young teen to read it; it would be better suited for an older teen in my estimation.
Cynthia
It might me extremely uncomfortable and I felt that the story itself was weak and was relying too heavily on shock as a way to keep the reader interested.
Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Taylor on August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
While browsing at our local library, I saw this book with the girls in swimsuits on the cover (sexier than the one shown on Amazon) and the intriguing title, and grabbed it for a light hearted romp on the fabled Italian coast. Well, fabled it is, after learning about the tough lives of everyone living on the polluted beach beside a failing steel mill. There is nobody even remotely happy in this book, except for the two thirteen year olds running wild in a poor, drug riddled community. Their joy in life is flawed, however, by abusive men in their families and everywhere they turn. There seems to be no hope for them.

Why, you say, should one want to read about such depressing circumstances? This is an important book. I have been reading with great sadness about many parts of the United States that suffer from crime, drug abuse, and shattering of safe family units. Unemployment and mind numbing jobs are behind much of the hopelessness of towns and cities left behind, as employment has gone elsewhere. Who knew that there are places in Italy undergoing the same transformation? Does this mean that this is happening all over Europe?

Silvia Avalone has written a very challenging first novel. I had trepidations about reading a translation, but it was beautifully done by Anthony Shuggar. I feel that she really needed a good editor. Too much goes on, and, therefore, too much is left dangling. While pulling for Franchesca and Anna, I wanted to like them a bit more, though thirteen year olds in any country do tend to be mean and self absorbed. Ms. Avalone's descriptions put you right in the place, miserable as it is. You will not be reading about a villa in Tuscany, but, I fear, a disturbing novel that may portend the future of many towns and cities of our lovely planet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Hartling on March 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.

Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Love at First Book on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I wanted to like Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone soooo badly.

But I know very clearly why I dislike it. It wasn't for me. Let me explain.

Anna and Francesca are the best of friends. They live in a poor town in Italy, but they are everything anyone would ever want: beautiful, sexy, popular. . . and they throw it in everyone's faces. They also are 13 years old.

As they enter high school and learn more about themselves their friendship changes.

I love the aspects of friendship and change, even the snottiness with the popularity.

But I couldn't stand all the sexuality. They are YOUNG teens! I know it happens, but I don't want to read about it. And the drugs. . . all over the place in their town. It was just a little too dark at too young of an age for my liking.

Maybe you'll feel differently.

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca @ Love at First Book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Papergirl on November 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Swimming to Elba takes on too much to be completely successful. But it captures Anna and Francesca's exquisite, painful season of first knowledge perfectly, in language beautiful and crude enough to ring true. Too raw and depressing? You try being young in Berlusconi's Italy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dad of Divas TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This the book is definitely a coming-of-age story that allows you to explore the relationship between Anna and Francesca but also between them and the world around them. The author paints the picture of a town that is going through much upheaval and you feel for the girls as you see a world ridden with drug abuse and crime. There were times that the book made me feel a bit goal down into the depths of depression that you could only guess that the main characters felt, and seeing how the characters themselves dealt with this made me also feel uneasy, especially as a parent. This was a powerful book to read and a difficult book to explore but definitely one in which you are drawn in and one in which you will want to share with others in the end.

* I received a copy of this book for review - all opinions are my own*
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kassie's Book Thoughts on September 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Silvia Avallone's novel Swimming to Elba was an amazing summer read! The story was so raw and the reader is able to get the loss of innocence in the life of the young people living in Italy. Once you start reading the book you will be unable to put it down, because you will be going through a lot of experiences that the two main character's, Francesca and Anna, should not be going through at their age.

The novel is about two young in-separable best friends, Francesca and Anna, who are enjoying their summer at the beach and just doing what all teenage girls do at their age- flirting with boys, being girls, playing at the beach, swimming, etc. When Francesca kisses Anna in a non-friendly way the two girls go on their own separate paths, without them knowing what came in between their friendship. On their own separate paths, Francesca and Anna, go through a lot of rough life experiences that they feel the need of the presence of one another.

This novel was just an amazing read and I felt what these two girls were going through the whole time. I highly recommend everyone to buy or check this book out at their local library to read during the summer.
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