Thursday, 14 July 2011

Book Review - "Mezza Italiana" by Zoe Boccabella

book review mezza italiana


I would like to start with a disclaimer. I am not a writer. I am not an editor. I am not a book reviewer. These days anyone with internet access can start a blog and share their opinions with others. So, look at me as one of those anyones who has a blog and is happy to share an opinion or two with whoever is happy to come across and read it.

Right, with that out the way, I'm going to tell you how I felt when I finished this book. Disappointed. That, is not the end of my review, by the way. Let me explain further. The title and author's name caught my eye, "Mezza Italiana" by "Zoe Boccabella", the collage-feel to the cover also appealed. But it was the blurb on the inside cover that sent my heart racing. This was the book I had been waiting for and finally someone had written it. And this was my mistake - I had set it up to fail, to fall from the dizzying height from whence I'd perched it.

The story is a common migrant story of growing up in Australia in the 70's where Italians were still referred to as 'wogs'. The older generation Italians were holding fast onto their traditions while the teen generation just wanted to fit into the Australian way of life. If that meant denying or stifling your heritage, then so be it; they weren't interested in their heritage; I wasn't interested in my heritage. I had expected the narrative to meander through the author's journey in some sort of logical order and to be charmed or shocked, whatever the case may be, by the anecdotes where I would nod my head in agreement and understanding. If I use the analogy of meandering along quiet country lanes and being charmed by the surrounding scenery, then this book does not fit with that analogy. Instead, imagine you're in a buzzing city with tight little lanes, distractions are everywhere. The lanes look enticing, exhilarating until you come to dead end after dead end. The buzzing little lanes whilst offering initial promise, fail to deliver. They soon lose their initial appeal and instead become annoying. So it is with a lot of the author's anecdotes in the book. I felt as though I was trapped in those buzzing little lanes wearing a blindfold and not being able to get my bearings, constantly bumping into the dead end walls.
It was relief I felt when I came to the end. And of course disappointment.

Another disclaimer for you - I don't have the foggiest at what is involved in writing a book, how the process works, how long it takes, how many re-writes are involved. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to write a book that not only recounts your journey physically and emotionally, but also the journeys of your nearest and dearest. I do appreciate the enormous effort involved. What I don't understand is how the book slipped past the editor and over to the printer without just one more critical read-through.  I am not a high school English teacher and I'm sure this post is peppered with errors, but I feel the narrative could have been improved immensely with tighter editing. There were too many unanswered questions for me, too many half anecdotes, no photographs (apart from the covers).

The trouble is, no matter how well it could have been written, this book was always going to disappoint me to a certain extent. Do I recommend you read this book? No, I don't. Unless of course if you are related to the Boccabella family then you may be privy to some of the stories already and your knowledge will be able to fill the many gaps that left me wanting. If in the future, I purchase another book with a similar story, I will lower my expectations and simply go along for the ride without being so critical of how the story should be presented. 
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