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Winter's Night, A Paperback – 13 Sep 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; 1 edition (13 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609450760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609450762
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.1 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 552,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A page-turning, enjoyable...read, this charms the reader with its many timeless folktales and eclectic cast of characters. --We Love This Book

A solid, credible, satisfying examination of the destruction of a way of life. --Kirkus Reviews

Told in the tradition of country folktales and framed by the devastating years of strife [...] these stories will delight readers from the first page to the last. --Good Reads


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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
(3.5 stars) In this old-fashioned, once-upon-a-time-in-the-old-country" saga set in northern Italy, author Valerio Massimo Manfredi introduces the Bruni family of farmers. Living in the rural hills outside of Bologna, Callisto and Clerice Bruni, parents of seven sons and two daughters, have worked the same land as generations of their ancestors. During the cold winters, the barn becomes the night-time gathering place for the family, since the warmth of their cows keeps the barn warmer than the house, and they willingly offer a warm place there to any travelers or passersby who need a place to sleep. Some of these strangers tell stories to amuse the family, some of them help with the farm work, some stay for a few days, some stay for weeks, and some have been visiting so often over the years that the family now knows them well.

One evening in January, 1914, a neighbor, arrives, alarmed by his encounter with a stranger whose eyes "were as red as a demon's." The stranger insists that he has seen "the golden goat" in the hills in front of him, "shining in the middle of the swirling snow." The goat's red eyes suggest the devil, and the old man's sudden disappearance emphasizes his own other-worldly origins. In the past, each sighting of the golden goat has presaged some disaster, and this sighting is interpreted as signifying "a catastrophe the likes of which no one has ever seen." A few months later, World War I begins.

The war changes the very heart of the nation, and no one can ever believe again in the simplicity of a golden goat as an explanation for the catastrophes that have affected the country. All seven Bruni sons participate in this war.
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I am a huge fan of Valerio Massimo Manfredi and his historical fact-ion. I love the way he takes "facts" from ancient history and weaves a convincing tale around them. Although I enjoyed A Winter's Night - which is in effect a story of every day 20th Century Italian country folk, the issues discussed - the futility of WW1 and the barbarity of the Fascists in WW11 are well known so the tale wasn't as intriguing as e.g. The Last Legion
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Accustomed to more tantalising plot and suspense from Manfredi, I found this mini-epic more anecdotal and less gripping than his best. It almost reaches the level of Maupassant in its critique of petty-peasantry but without the counterbalance of Maupassant's humorous quips.
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Format: Paperback
“A winter’s night by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

It is Italy. It is January 2014. The poverty of the peasants living in the town and countryside near Bologna is unbelievable. There is starvation, and the deaths of young children. It seems mediaeval.

The peasants work the land, and are paid in Spring and in kind (wheat etc) by the landlord after all the produce has been sent to him – and this is checked. He takes his cut, good harvests or bad. When the harvest is bad, as this year, there will be hunger.

The people are superstitious, and believe in portents. There is word that “the golden goat” has been seen, and so there will be a disaster. With our knowledge of history we are aware of what the disaster might be. Otherwise we would be no better off than the peasants, waiting for the next bad thing to be “the disaster”. Sure enough, though, the harvest has just come to an end when we hear of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, by the Bosnian student, Gavrilo Princip.

We then follow the fortunes of the Bruni, a kind and gentle hard-working family who have a large barn which they use to give shelter and food to waifs and strays and victims of the poor harvest, especially during the severe upland winters. The original Italian title is “Hotel Bruni”.

We move through the First World War which all the sons, unbelievably survive. Then we have the Great Depression during which things are as tough as they are anywhere for the less well off.

The Fascist time arrives, with its posturing and bullying, the scum floating to the top of the pot, and the take-over by thugs. The Bruni are socialist, so things are even harder for them.
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Format: Paperback
A superb writer (and translator) at work in this saga of an Italian family stretching from the 1910s to WWII. A fine blend of story-telling and the author's political perspective (socialist and anti-fascist) that documents the lives of the large (six brothers and two sisters) Bruni family, Emilia-Romagno tenant farmers, who endure poverty, rapacious landlords, two wars and political repression with a mix of courage, passivity, resignation, wisdom and thickheadiness. Virtue and bravery are often not rewarded as the author makes an argument for social justice--by implication--in contemporary Italy.

The novel's great strengths are the well-sketched characters and their interactions as well as a smoothly flowing storyline that builds on vignettes, one after the other. Characters come and go, as one generation replaces the previous. While there is incremental progress for the Brunis and their extended families, the plagues of war, economic hardship and government repression are never distance.

"A Winter's Night" is so well done, that I'm going to try author Manfredi's other novels soon.
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