'Me and You' once again illustrates the skill of European authors in saying more in a condensed form than in many novels three times the length. Focussing on the character of Lorenzo, a sad and troubled young boy, who deceives his parents by not actually attending a ski-ing trip, but hiding out for the week in the basement of his building. Ammaniti constructs a beautifully compact examination of how easily family relationships can go awry and the alienation that can ensue. When Lorenzo's equally troubled half-sister enters his hideaway, this theme of family really comes to the fore as she battles her own demons and gains some solidarity with the little brother that she barely knows. The close of the novel contains a shocking but incredibly poignant denouement. A wonderful novel that was both thought-provoking and beautifully written.
on 14 February 2012
This very short novel is about an encounter between the narrator as a 14 year old and his 23 year old half-sister, each of whom has a reason for hiding in the basement of the appartment block in Rome in which his parents live.
This has many of the wonderful qualities of Ammaniti's other novels (I've the only three I think have been translated - I would recommend them all very strongly): a very sensitive grip on the hopes, aspirations and fears of young people just turning into adults, the creation of episodes that combine deep feeling with comedy, and forward narrative drive - it's a very easy read.
If I prefer Ammaniti's other novels, it's mostly that they are simply more substantial - but also that here I found that the set-up of the main situation took quite a bit of the book (and was not the most interesting/captivating part), that the framing device (of a first and last chapter set 10 years later) seemed a bit obvious, and in 'Black Cat' paperback when you finish reading the novel, you are faced with 20 odd questions for discussion, asking why the author refers to Batesian theories etc - which I could have lived without!
Having said all that, there is very much to enjoy. I look forward to the next novel!
on 22 April 2014
Yet another small novel - 150 pages - of exquisite writing and heartbreak that says so much more than something twice its length. This is a love story, yes, but not your typical love story. This is a story of a 14 year old boy, Lorenzo Cuni, only child of parents who need to be seen to be fitting in and going to the right places. Like many 14 year olds, he feels disconnected from those around him - his peers and his parents, and really just wants to be left alone. To escape he tells his parents he is going on a week long ski trip with the popular kids from school, but in reality he sneaks away into the basement of the apartment building he lives in, relishing a week of peace and quiet and no expectations. His paradise is suddenly shattered when his 24 year old troubled drug user drop out half sister, Olivia, turns up. Neither wants the other one there - Olivia is estranged from her father, and Lorenzo has grown up only hearing bad things about his sister. But over the few days left of Lorenzo's 'ski trip', they slowly stop circling each other, realise they have much more in common than they thought, and ultimately find the acceptance and belonging neither had ever really had from their family.
The character of Lorenzo captures perfectly the angst - justified or not - that most young teens feel. He is caught between wanting to be his own person, but not really knowing what that is, and like most children, wanting to please his parents and keep on their good side. Like many teens he is ingenious in his thinking to cover his murky tracks and I enjoyed very much the flawed young man I was reading about. Olivia is a tragic figure, not much has gone right for her in her young life, but in meeting Lorenzo, her little brother, she finds a softness and warmth that she had long forgotten about.
Of course the escape has to come to an end, and Lorenzo returns from his ski trip happier and more at peace with himself, and Olivia too leaves and gets on with her life. I almost can't believe so much can be said in such a small book. Stunning.
on 21 October 2012
The me and you of the title are Lorenzo, 14 and his half-sister Olivia, 23. This stunning novella is situated in Rome in 2000. Its introduction and conclusion were written ten years later by an older and wiser Lorenzo. The 2000 story unfolds during a 5- or 6-day period and deals mostly with Lorenzo. Who prefers to be alone and reacts with varying degrees of hostility to other people. Only his beloved mother is fully exempt from his deep desire for solitude. As an intelligent child he recognized his defect and developed methods to control his tantrums following invasions of his private sphere. And he adapted techniques certain flies developed in their evolution to look and behave like their worst enemies. He uses mimicry and camouflage to pass as one of the herd of schoolmates to be considered normal. And lies a lot to reassure his parents (his mother!) that he is doing alright.
Until he becomes entangled in his latest lie, for which he plans a bizarre solution and a longed for state of mind: total solitude, finally alone all by himself (he is jealous of lonesome seabirds and prisoners serving solitary confinement). But then, as if exploding, blazing out of one of his computer games, a real-life monster emerges who can spoil everything for him. This time, he cannot lie his way out, he has to learn to negotiate, and quickly too...
Earlier, Niccolo Ammaniti wrote "I'm not Afraid", a brilliant story from the point of view of a 9-year old boy in a scary, poor and confused setting in rural Italy. In this novella, he confirms his talent of writing marvellous books from unexpected perspectives. More of his novels should be translated into English. And this is a magical tale!
on 12 February 2012
This is one of those books that somehow manage, in an almost magical way, to steal a reader's heart; and that not so much because of their myth, but because of the prose; a prose that sounds tender, almost nostalgic, and which every now and then seems to converse with the silence and the psyches.
This is the story of Lorenzo, a fourteen year old boy that doesn't seem to do well in the world he lives in, but who also tries hard not to show it. And that, because of his mother, whom he deeply loves, and whose aura for some reason reminds him of Morocco.
"Life is sad without a sense of humor," the author says, and that's exactly the element that's missing from the boy's life. Whatever he does he can never feel glad, not even a little bit happy. Apart from his mom the only other person he seems to get on well with is himself.
His parents cannot really understand him and feel sorry for him, and that's why he decides to take a trip to the mountains with some of the popular kids in his class. But of course that trip will never come to be, because he just made it up. His plan is simple: while his parents will feel happy thinking that he's at last at some faraway place and having fun with some other people, he'll be hiding in a long forgotten storeroom in the basement of their building.
At the beginning everything goes according to plan: He stocks his humble abode with all the supplies he'll need for his weeklong stay and then spends some quality time with himself, playing video games, watching TV and thinking deeply about his life; "Why did I have to be just like the others?" "On my own I was happy, with the others I always had to pretend."
Now, hidden as he is in his beloved basement and isolated from the whole world, yes, he does feel a little bit happy. Life, however, is not about to leave him in peace for long. So, in comes Olivia, his half-sister who has serious drug abuse issues, and who from one moment to the next smashes his fragile, but seemingly secure, world to pieces. Thus the free man becomes the slave; a slave to her needs; her personal slave. Someone has to help her fulfill those needs, and if not Lorenzo, then who?
Ammaniti seems to closely observe and analyze the dynamics that develop between these two young souls; dynamics that somehow seem to presage a complete catastrophe. As it seems the one simply cannot stand the other. However, like it or not, they need each other, because if their secrets come to light they both have a lot to lose. So they form an alliance, one that will help them survive their troubles, make them realize some things, and give them the chance to see their selves as they truly are. The fall for the two of them doesn't seem to be far, but neither is the recovery. Just as Olivia writes to her father: "I have to learn not to hate you," Lorenzo needs to learn how not to hate living with the other people.
A well-written novella that can easily be read in a single sitting, and which has a lot to say to the observant reader. Highly recommended.
on 16 April 2012
Me & You by Niccolo Ammaniti
I was really looking forward to this book, having read I'm Not Scared and finding it a real tour de force.
Me & You has less narrative drive than I'm not Scared, but still explores Ammaniti's fascination with children discovering the secrets of adults.
Lorenzo Cuni is a 14-year-old loner, whose has an intense (possibly unhealthy) relationship with his mother. To please her, and as part of an internal fantasy, he says he has been invited on a week long ski trip with the `cool` kids.
It is a lie, and to cover his tracks Lorenzo hides for a week in a cellar. But a visit from his estranged half-sister Olivia changes everything...
This is a novella, and as such does not explore all the issues in depth. But it is complete, and succinctly exposes the world of adults as false, leading us to a genuine sadness and empathy with the young people.
I would have liked to see Ammaniti write another 30,000 words and really take us on a journey with this story, as there are lots of `gaps`. But taking it as the novella it is, it is very moving and well written. And maybe the `gaps` are where the reader can make the most powerful connections?
on 23 April 2013
This is a fast and touching read. It is short but deep, with realistic and beautifully developed characters. The narrative is smooth and real without dramatising for a bitter story.
I recommend it and will definitely read more of Ammanini.
on 26 April 2012
Me and You is a simple read that belies how very well written (and translated) the novella is. For readers who have read Ammaniti's other work the setting of modern Rome is a change of pace from rural, elegiac Italy but, as always, the protagonists are fascinatingly flawed. A novella that's easy enough to polish off in one sitting, my thoughts keep returning to it and particularly to the ending. Me and You is not Ammaniti's best novel, but they can't all be the best and this one is more than worth the read.
on 26 January 2016
I really enjoyed this and was gripped as I am usually with Ammaniti's stories. And then it suddenly ended. It was the Kindle version and I began to question if they'd chopped the end off or the ending got lost in translation. I even checked I hadn't skipped a bit. I understood the meaning behind it but I think the fact I didn't realise it was a short story didn't help. I was really enjoying this book then felt let down at the end.
on 8 August 2012
You will read this novella in just a couple of hours. Nevertheless, it is a powerful and interesting story with well developed characters which will leave you thinking afterwards.