I'm Margherita and, as you may have guessed,First, I was glad to temporarily put on hold reading Audrey Niffenegger's latest novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, which is getting too sappy for my taste. Second, I'm even more glad that I chose to read Stefano Benni's Margherita Dolce Vita, which is one of the funniest novels I've read recently.
I weigh less in panties than I do fully dressed.
Margherita Dolce Vita, an Italian novel translated by Anthony Shugaar, features an adorable 14-year-old precocious, chubby girl affectionately called Margherita Dolce Vita by her grandfather. Margherita lives with her family, whose members are as weird as they come. Her father, Fausto, is a "public defender of objects," taking it upon himself to restore delapidated objects such as bicycles. Her mother, Emma, is a typical Italian housewife but who is addicted to soap operas. Her older brother, Giacinto, reads only sports magazines and Victoria's Secret catalogues and, according to Margherita, is a "stupid version of herself." The youngest, Erminio, is a 12-year-old genius.
Things become very interesting when a new family, the Del Benes, move in, erecting a huge block of a house with no windows that Margherita calls The Cube. The Del Benes are everything that Margherita's family is not, and soon, their neighbors have exerted their influence on each member of Margherita's family except for our heroine. Fausto has become obssessed with high-tech gadgets, Emma with the latest cosmetological treatments, Giacinto with the Del Benes' blonde daughter, and Erminio with video games that the Del Benes have given him. It falls on Margherita to show them how their little family has transformed for the worst.
Margherita Dolce Vita has plenty of comedic moments that can lead one to thinking that this is simply a lighthearted novel. In a way, that's true -- as plenty of these funny moments have a cinematic quality about them. But Benni's novel is more than that; it's also a satire on consumerism, environmental degradation, and misplaced paranoia. On one side, we have Margherita's family who, despite their idiosyncrasies, was happy with what they have. On the opposite end, we see the Del Benes with their bio-ionized air conditioning and their abhorence for the local cooperative grocery, who they believe fund terrorist and communist groups.
Margherita's voice is fresh and uncontrived. When she makes brilliantly funny quips, you don't question that they come from just a normal 14-year-old girl. She really is a memorable character, one that's very endearing and you can root for.
I am wearing the black outfit that everybody says makes me look two pounds lighter (so I really need to wear eight of them, one over the other).
I've decided to hunt down other novels of Stefano Benni. He has written several novels and Margherita Dolce Vita is his first successful novel to be released globally. If his other novels is only half as good as this one, I would still be a fan.
Read this book if:
- You feel that all your family members are weird (except for yourself, of course).
- You love precocious main characters with a wonderful sense of humor.
- You couldn't care less about having bio-ionized air conditioning in your home.