Wednesday, December 22, 2010

REVIEW: From the Land of the Moon, by Milena Agus

From the Land of the Moon, by Milena Agus. Published 2010 by Europa Editions. Literary Fiction. Translation.

Set during and just after World War II but in a backwater of Italy far from the front lines, From the Land of the Moon is the haunting story of an unnamed woman, the narrator's grandmother, who, unable to have children, is sent by her husband to a spa where she falls in love for the first time.  The man, a fellow patient, is known only as the Veteran; his past, bound up with the war and its attendant tragedies, is full of secrets and passions. The grandmother has a secret of her own: she writes. Her family thinks she is worthless, an eccentric spinster who marries late the only man who will have her, she's from "the land of the moon" as far as they're concerned.

The grandmother is a beautiful, passionate and brilliant woman whose story of repressed vivacity could easily have turned maudlin, but under Agus's light touch turns into something else. The novel, barely more than a novella, tracks her entire life through the eyes of her granddaughter; time moves back and forth, and the narrator weaves in her own memories and those of her father, mother and other relatives in a delicate net of memory, secrets and love. Despite never being given a name, the grandmother and indeed all the characters, are far from generic or even archetypal; Agus presents their emotions and personalities so convincingly, and sets them in such a vividly rendered time and place, that I felt like I was reading about real people. The grandmother's trip to Milan with her husband, years after her time at the spa, was heartbreaking and real, and the final twist brought tears to my eyes and made me question almost everything I'd read.

From the Land of the Moon is a beautiful family story and love story that readers of European literary fiction will absolutely love. It's short and Agus has a light touch but it's not a light novel. The writing is careful and the book requires a careful reader; it took me much longer to read this than I would have guessed for such a short novel. It's a timeless story rich with detail of time and place, about nameless characters who are nonetheless as real and memorable as any you'll meet on paper.

Because I loved this novel so much I'd like to share it with one of my readers. Comment with your email address for a chance to win my copy; the giveaway is open worldwide and ends at midnight, December 25. Call it my little Christmas present to one of you!

Rating: BUY


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Europa Editions.

21 comments:

Mystica said...

Being the first I wonder! but miracles do happen and its Christmas after all.

Thank you for the thought of sharing and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Zibilee said...

Wow, this dies sound like a really interesting and powerful read, and I like the fact that the characters are so well crafted. I would love the chance to read this one, so count me in!! Fabulous review, Marie!

zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

bermudaonion said...

This sounds wonderful!

jewwishes said...

This sounds like a great read.

I will buy my own copy, but thanks for the kind thought you are putting out.

Suzanne said...

I have never been disappointed by anything I've read from Europa Editions. This is going on my to-read list anyway, but I'd love the opportunity to win a copy.
sweiner1169(at)hotmail(dot)com

Thank you and happy holidays!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

It sounds like the book really affected you - reality, then the rug pulled out from under.

Yes, please enter my name in the giveaway. Europa Editions are favorites :)

Miss Liberty said...

I really like books / and I would like this one, too / I can has now, please?

libertyhardy at gmail dot com

Stephanie said...

I love the strong feminist thread running through this book: that sense of overcoming adversity and expectation. And I love to drown in beautifully written prose, so this sounds right up my alley!

stephanie @ readinasinglesitting.com

diaryofaneccentric said...

Well, you know how much I love books set during WWII so this one sounds great to me.

Merry Christmas!

diaryofaneccentric at hotmail dot com

Natasha said...

Sounds like an amazing read and like nothing I have ever read before! Thanks for the review, I've really been wanting to read this! I'd love to have a copy for my shelves.

thebookish96[at]gmai[dot]com

bookmagic said...

This sounds like a great and unusual book. I'm in

bookmagic418@gmail.com

Esme said...

Thank you for this-this sounds like a wonderful book. Merry Christmas.


chocolateandcroissants at yahoo . com

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This really does sound incredible - I am such a fan of World War II stories, and post WWII - thanks for hosting this! Please enter me into the giveaway!
coffeeandabookchick at gmail dot com

Gorby said...

Looks great!

davidc42691@gmail.com

Gorby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jewwishes said...

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, Marie.

xo

Gina Choe said...

Thank you for sharing this book with your readers! It sounds wonderful--no surprise, I have lots of love for Europa Editions.

ginachoe [at] gmail [dot] com

Aarti said...

I know exactly what you mean when you say the book has a light touch but is not a light novel. I love books like that :-)

Vasilly said...

This sounds like such an amazing read. I would love to win it. Merry Christmas!

Kathleen said...

Sorry to have missed the opportunity to win this one but I have added it to my list and will look forward to reading it.

undermyappletree.net said...

I saw your review when I was posting mine at LibraryThing and I have to agree this was a great book. I loved it.