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A family story set in Italy (both sad and uplifting…)

12th November 2019

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio, a family story set in Italy (both sad and uplifting) – translated by Ann Goldstein.

A family story set in Italy

A Girl Returned is a thought provoking and sensitive book. It is also beautifully translated by Ann Goldstein (Elena Ferrante’s translator…).

A 13 year old (nameless) girl is suddenly uprooted from her house and family on the coast and transported to a poor village many miles away. She does not know why, or what she has done to deserve such treatment. She is thrust in to the middle of a new pretty dysfunctional family. She is lost and depressed.

It turns out that her new life is to be with her birth mother, stepfather, and half siblings. She had been give away, shortly after birth, to a distant relative on the coast who intended to bring her up as her own. Her coast ‘mother’ had suddenly – 13 years later – changed her mind. Why?

The books describes the story of the partial integration of the girl into her new family. There are many trials and tribulations, but she gets on well with her half sister, Adriana and her half brother, Vincenzo (although both are troubled individuals). Her birth mother and stepfather are not exactly welcoming. The girl is a bright child and her school teacher presses for her to be sent to a good secondary college to reach her academic potential. Her birth mother and stepfather eventually agree and she is sent back to the coast to further her education. She. of course, uses the opportunity to try and locate her birth mother and find out why she was sent away. But the family apartment is empty. Where and why has she moved? The girl believes she may well have been taken ill, and have been placed in a hospital. But it is hard to find out… She has not, in fact, been entirely deserted by her birth mother – although she does not know where she is and cannot meet with her, she continues to receive some money and gifts from her. But she does not understand why all this has happened. She keeps returning to the same question – what had she done to create the rift?

She eventually finds out.

A Girl Returned is moving story of a vulnerable girl somewhat lost in the machinations of her greater family. Recommended.

Tony for the TripFiction Team

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