Seven Works of Mercy
Original title: Sette opere di misericordia
“Seven works of mercy is one of those rare novels in which the narration manages to give a new voice to the eternal themes: like guilt and destiny, mercy and punishment, dreams and lost innocence. Through impeccable, wide-ranging yet expertly precise writing, Piera Ventre follows the best literary tradition. The idea of cruelty of history as opposed to innocence of childhood is at the centre of her work – all supported by a strong narration, that involves the reader from the first page to the last.” — Nomination Premio Strega, Cesare de Seta
“The writer’s style is diabolically perfect, in the balance between synthetic form and poetic image is amazing.” —La Repubblica
“The author follows the footsteps of the last Orthese, writer of Il cardillo addolorato, where a sparkling, phantasmagorical Naples is put in scene through a kaleidoscope of perspectives that intersect and sometimes even contradict each other. The language is rich and lush and composes a picture in which hope gleams behind the darkness.” — Il Mattino
“Piera Ventre leads history with a script that is animated by the warmth of the gestures of characters, their memories, the simple objects that surround them.” — Il Corriere del Mezzogiorno
“A voracious novel, a powerful story led by a brilliant and wide-ranging style, in which the themes of mercy and punishment, guilt and broken dreams, destiny and lost innocence are intertwined.” — Il Messagero
”Piera Ventre is a brilliant writer, with an unmistakable style, a great talent in reconstructing events and an ability to create deep characters”, — Valeria Parrella on Grazia
Naples, June 1981. The Imparato family lives in a simple but respectable house located in a graveyard. This very low-cost arrangement came about when a series of unfortunate events forced Cristoforo, the head of the family, to take on a job as the cemetery caretaker. His wife Luisa and their children Rita, a skittish teenager who takes out her anxiety on food, and her sensitive and talented brother Nicola, have all had to find their own way of coming to terms with this unusual arrangement. Cristoforo nurtures his children’s hopes of a better life: they would like Nicola to go to university and for Rita to find her way.
The fragile family balance becomes strained when the son of an old friend of the Imparatos arrives in Naples en route to find work in Germany; and even more so when they have to find room for a friend of Rita’s. Having fallen pregnant and been thrown out of home by her father, Rosaria Palumbo is taken in by the Imparatos in an act of compassion.
In the background the television shows daily updates on the tragedy of a boy trapped in a well (a true story from Italy in the 1980s); echoing post-earthquake Naples with its gutted buildings, where people live in indescribable conditions, like in burrows.The Imparato family, always struggling between hope and despair under the innocent gaze of little Nicola, will be undone by an event that will change the very essence of these characters forever.
A wonderfully captivating and atmospheric book. Ventre’s sumptuous prose celebrates the splendor of Naples, with its bright colors, overbearing smells, food, clothes, churches, and household interiors recounted in vivid detail. The structure of the books loosely follows the famous Caravaggio work, housed in Naples, from which it takes its title.
- Longlisted for the Premio Strega
- French Sample available by Lise Caillat