Advice for Italian Boys


Author: Anne Giardini

Published: 2009

Genre: Fiction

About Advice for Italian Boys: Nicolo Pavone isn't sure where his life is going but his grandmother is always ready to offer advice.

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Review of Advice for Italian Boys

Nicolo Pavone is intelligent, athletic, and likeable. He works at a gym and lives at home with his parents, his grandmother, and his younger brother, Enzo. His older brother, also nicknamed Enzo, is married with a family of his own. Nicolo isn't sure what he wants to do with his life but he finds himself returning to his grandmother's sayings, her proverbi, when things get complicated.

Many of the proverbi made sense even here, thousands of kilometres from where Nicolo's nonna grew up in the mountains of southern Italy. Cunti allu spissu, amicizia alla longa. If you keep your stories short, you'll be more likely to keep your friends for a long time. Or chi simmina spini si pungi li pedi. If you sow thorns, they are bound to pierce your feet. But some of them are much more difficult to follow. "A gente senza figli nun chiedere nu sordi né cunsigli" means don't ask for either money or advice from someone who hasn't had children. Nicolo could see the reasoning behind the part about advice, but wouldn't someone without children be more likely to have money to lend? Nonna only produced her thinnest smile and patted his cheek when he asked her to explain.

"You will understand in time," she said, and she assumed that inward-turning expression that she has so often, as if she knows more than she is saying although he sometimes perceives that this might be her way of avoiding having to admit to the many things she doesn't know. She had only three years of school, after all; in the early part of the century, when she was a girl, that was all that Arduino had to offer unless fees were paid and uniforms that would need to be washed and ironed and starched were purchased. Nicolo believed for a long time, for many years longer than his brothers did, that his grandmother knew and saw and understood everything there was to know about the doings and wrongdoings of the world and the people in it. Only recently has he appreciated even a part of what she gave up to come here—not only her country but her language and her gods—and how widely she has had to cast her handful of proverbi, like the weights attached to a fishing net, trying to encompass a world for which they were never intended.

...from pages 5-6

There weren't any big dramatic events in this book. Instead, we followed Nicolo (mostly) and watched his relationships with his family, his friends, his clients at the gym, and with a girl that he met at a bridal shower. It was the people at the gym that provided the most insight into Nicolo's true self. His encounters with them were sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing, sometimes touching, but almost always revealing.

I enjoyed this book but there were two things that I absolutely loved. First, Giardini tossed in little surprises, things that were revealed casually, as if they weren't important, and they caught me off-guard more than once. And second, the relationship between Nicolo's parents. The love between Massimo and Paola was deep, powerful, and quiet.

Advice for Italian Boys was a lovely book with interesting characters, an engaging story, and a satisfying ending.

You can read part of this book for free at the HarperCollins website via Browse Inside.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 24 April 2009 from the hardcover edition provided by HarperCollins Canada.

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More Reviews

Dory Cerny, Quill & Quire, March 2009
“...a pleasure to read, with an abundance of lush imagery and a range of fully fleshed characters.”
Jonita, The Book Chick, 18 March 2009
“...the message was beautiful and profound, the writing elegant, the descriptions vivid.”
Linda L. Richards, January Magazine, 19 March 2009
“...richly layered, with a cast of deeply textured and enjoyable characters.”
Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, 13 April 2009
“...a read that held my attention...”
Frank Moher, National Post, 18 April 2009
“...when it comes to encapsulating conflicting drives in one haphazard package, Italian boys simply can't be beat.”


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Added 24 April 2009.
Updated 23 August 2013.