Many fans of the Don Camillo stories will be totally unfamiliar with this book. Published a good few years after the first, and much better known, collections of short stories – and, of course the novel, Comrade Don Camillo – it managed to escape inclusion in the various omnibuses of the time.
Another reason for its lack of popularity might lie in the subject matter, which is more serious than usual, and the perfunctory nature of the prose.
Written as a complete novel, the events it describes take place in the Little World some years after Don Camillo’s trip to Russia. Both he and Peppone are older, and saddled with problems they’d be much happier without. Peppone has a Maoist splinter group to deal with, as well as a Hell’s Angel son. Don Camillo faces an uphill struggle against the Church’s attempts to modernise, and a troublesome and totally unscrupulous niece who has come to stay with him in the rectory gives him a major headache. Set against a background of new Po valley prosperity and battles between two groups of Hell’s Angels, there is plenty of scope for interesting plot development.
The spirit of earlier, happy times is still present, as is the trademark humour. The translation is, however – unlike earlier work by Francis Frenaye and Una Vicenzo Trowbridge – seriously lacking in grace and charm, and grammatically dubious to boot. In the many diatribes concerning religion it is possible to lose the thread of the argument completely. I have no idea how the novel managed to reach the shelves of bookstores in this state, but it must have been rushed out without even the slightest degree of editorial attention.
Still, the saving grace lies in the story. Without giving too much away, the fortunes of the two old combatants, Don Camillo and Peppone, are finally joined together. No one who loves the Little World will be disappointed.