Like a Family

Original title: Come una Famiglia

Author: Simi, Giampaolo

Publication Date:

June 2018



Original language and publisher

Italian | Sellerio Editore


Crime & Thrillers

Like a Family

Original title: Come una Famiglia

Author: Simi, Giampaolo

  • 2 Seas Represents: Dutch rights.
  • Rights sold: Film rights (Palomar Film)
  • Over 40,000 copies sold. Top 20 of the bestseller list, 4 months after publication
  • Longlisted for the Premio Bancarella 2019


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Dario Corbo’s family exists in a delicate balance, he has reached a precarious truce with his estranged wife, a bitter and bad-tempered woman who never misses an opportunity to rub salt in old wounds, but he has a close relationship with his son, Luca. Dario earns a decent salary working for a contemporary art foundation in Tuscany. Luca is a promising young footballer. He has great career prospects and is attracting attention from a number of agents.

Luca is 17, with his whole life ahead of him, a life of sacrifices and training but with the chance of becoming a rich and famous footballer. He and his teammates are already preparing their social media profiles for life in the public eye, and for having their pick of the prettiest girls. Dario is Luca’s centre of gravity, he supports him and helps to keep his feet on the ground. But one night, after their tournament win, Luca and his teammates go out to celebrate. It is the night of Luca’s eighteenth birthday. The following morning, Dario Corbo is woken by the police. A girl has been attacked: beaten and raped. The signs are unmistakeable and the photographs of her injuries are horrific. The girl, Aurora Lopez, identifies Luca as one of the men caught on CCTV. In the face of some very serious accusations, Luca insists he is innocent.

From this point, Giampaolo Simi traps the reader in an ever-tightening web: is it possible for Dario not to believe his own son? Dario’s whole life has been dedicated to finding the truth: he was a journalist and destroyed his own career with his obsession. How can he doubt Luca now? Caught between a desire to understand who his son really is, and the obligation to protect Luca, Dario sets about finding the truth. He uncovers the complex world behind his son’s football team, a universe of envy, jealousy, and competition, but also a fraternal bond between teammates: is this true friendship or a gang mentality that hides collective responsibility? Dario struggles to work out how to save his son. Perhaps the best way is to accept Luca’s guilt: make him plead guilty to an assault that occurred before midnight, when he was a minor. It would make the process easier, and the sentence much lighter for Luca to plead guilty as a minor rather than try to prove his innocence as an adult. Not least because in the meantime, the mud-slinging machines of the mass and social media have kicked into overdrive: the names of everyone involved in the case are released, and no-one will come out of it smelling of roses. Hate campaigns are unleashed against Luca, against his teammates, and against Aurora, who has every corner of her life probed to reveal the most violent details of her relationship with her father and her constant need for money.

Giampaolo Simi tells the story of a father-son relationship: Dario and Luca are both forced to do some soul-searching to find out how far they will go to protect the people they love. Simi recounts the life of a family shaken by the suspicion that their beloved son might secretly be a monster. The story is set in Versilia, on the Tuscan coast, in a hypocritical, vicious and unrealistic community that feels “just like a family”. This brilliantly cinematographic novel combines masterful realism with excruciating tension.

Giampaolo Simi has published Il corpo dell’inglese (Einaudi, 2004), Rosa elettrica (Einaudi, 2007), La notte alle mie spalle (e/o, 2012) and The Wrong Girl (Sellerio, 2017). He works as a screenwriter for some of the most important Italian production companies, including RAI Channel and Cattleya. He has received several prizes for his books.