The Water of The Lake Is Never Clear and Pure

Original title: L’acqua del lago non è mai dolce

Publication Date:

January 2021



Original language and publisher

Italian | Bompiani

Territories Handled

English (North America), Netherlands

Territories Sold

France (Gallmeister, in a pre-empt)
Germany (Wagenbach, in a pre-empt)
Netherlands (Uitgeverij Cossee)
Brazil (Âyiné)
China (Thinkingdom)
Spanish (World) (Sexto Piso, in a pre-empt)
Slovakia (Inaque, at auction)
Arabic (Almutawassit)
Japan (Hayakawa)
Romania (Humanitas)
Croatia (Fraktura)
Greece (Dioptra)
Serbia (Publik Praktikum)
North Macedonia (Makedonika Litera )
Slovenia (Mladinska Knjiga)
Catalan (L’Altra Editorial, at auction)
Bulgaria (Colibri)
Russia (Storytel)
Hungary (Park Kiadò)
Portugal ()
Film/TV rights ()
English (World) (Spiegel & Grau)
Netherlands (Saga Egmont, Audio only)


Literary Fiction

The Water of The Lake Is Never Clear and Pure

Original title: L’acqua del lago non è mai dolce


The water of the lake is fuel, powered by poverty and humiliation, that bursts into flames making Giulia Caminito’s novel unforgettable: through a refined writing, which has swallowed fragments of many lives and has made this narrative exceptional, it delivers two portraits of red-haired women who push the boundaries of restlessness, cruelty and desire for redemption. Dragging the reader in front of that lake, like a magic mirror on the wall. — Sabina Minardi (L’Espresso)

The Water of the Lake Is Never Clear and Pure is an intense story written with an elegant style and an accurate language that exudes the author’s ability to tell the complexity of our ways of coping with this world. — La Sicilia

A book that talks about anger, adolescence, chasing dreams. And it gets under your skin. — Marie Claire

Giulia Caminito builds characters the readers feel invested in, always showing their deep scars. — Il Foglio

It is impossible not to be involved and carried away by this novel of extraordinary elegance and maturity, not to keep thinking about its many hearts, as many as the aspects of the complex life of human beings. — Nadia Terranova, La Stampa

A luminous and powerful voice, like a very long poem, a voice so unique that we haven’t heard anything like this for a while, you can’t miss it. — Maria Grazia Ligato, Io Donna

An excellent, sad and beautiful novel, with a strong, violent and unsolved protagonist and a unique “family of women”. Written with a polished style, this is an intimate and profound look at the changes in society not only in small-town Italy. You’ll be immediately overwhelmed by the excitement and commitment of the author in telling this story about youth at the margins. The image of the lake remains unforgettable. A novel of great literary power. — Wagenbach editor

“Rarely have I come across such a strong, moving and deep text. Giulia Caminito has written a book that manages to be profound and fresh at the same time, brutal and tender, tough and heartbreaking, a groundbreaking prose and a fierce, sharp look at society I can only compare with that of the South Korean movie Parasite. It’s been a while since I read a novel that felt so real. It had me at the first sentence. I fell in love.” — Vanna Katsarou, acquiring editor at Dioptra

“We have been completely taken by Giulia Caminito´s strong voice and her very powerful writing that touches universal topics -such as growing up struggle, mother-daughter complex relationships, poverty, social injustice and inequality, and the mirage of education as way out those class barriers.” — Thinkingdom editor

Giulia Caminito unravels the story of a poor working-class family dominated by a powerful and fierce mother figure, Antonia, in the spirit of the best neo-realist tradition. […] However, the real protagonist is Antonia’s daughter, Gaia, the narrator whose voice seems to erupt from the depth unmasking any social convention – in eternal contradiction between pursuing wealth and losing it in the mud.
Giulia Caminito’s talent really lies in Gaia’s voice, in her sharp shyness and buried anger, both fueled by shame; through her the author portrays a violent and ungraceful adolescence where the tenderness turns into torment, with prose that is at once stylistically distant and emotionally invested. She captures our contemporary reality going through the bottom of society, from the mother’s obstinate hope of staying afloat in the midst of injustice to the daughter’s empty surrender into resentment, showing the cheap illusions of emancipation and the broken promises of culture. — Giuseppe Montesano’s endorsement, upon nominating the novel for the 2021 Premio Strega

In a visionary and original novel, so literary and lush in its prose, the protagonist Gaia, while facing tragedies and separations, experiences a ferocious determinism that falls upon her and seems to deny any possibility of redemption. In the background, there is the Lake whose water is not clear and “sweet” at all, a powerful metaphor for the life of those who still struggle with the most basic human needs today, living a humiliating existence. — il Corriere della sera

A literary novel that goes to places rarely explored in contemporary Italian literature.

Giulia Caminito has created a novel so tactile and grounded in reality and at the same time imbued with a radical restlessness lurking in every word, that makes its angular, biting, and poetic prose the last stand against the looming demons of our time.

Gaia was born into a troubled family: her mother, Antonia, had four children, the first at just seventeen by a good-for-nothing layabout, the others by construction worker Massimo, who was left in a wheelchair following an accident on site. They live on the outskirts of Rome in a twenty square meter room that Antonia snatched from the local addicts, and where her twin babies sleep in a cardboard box. She does all she can to give her family some hope and manages to find them an apartment in a social housing development in Anguillara Sabazia, close to lake Bracciano, thirty kilometers from the city that chewed them up and spat them out.

This hostile, enigmatic town is where Gaia spends her youth, every day facing a world that has nothing to offer her, will never accept her, and which she will do nothing to be accepted by. Here, she will find love and friendship, but without truly embracing them, she will feel the weight of expectations, lies and betrayal, jealousy, misunderstanding, and loneliness. From a life spent striving to be “no less” than anyone else, as her mother adamantly insists, to chase after an impossible redemption. As time goes on, Gaia finds it is increasingly difficult to make the best of a bad situation. While Antonia makes every effort to bear the weight of an entire wall under collapse, Gaia wants to break it down, stamp on it, smash it into sharp little pieces that are dangerous even to her.

In her new book, Giulia Caminito tells the story of an uncomfortable reality, invisible to the majority of contemporary writers, and she pulls no punches. Gaia and her family are living in poverty – white trash, some would call them – in the darkest backwater, with no hope of escape or redemption. But this revelation is not the only driving force behind this novel. Its bold, forthright prose reflects the protagonist’s disturbing, unanswered questions, and lays bare the hypocrisies of an inert and twisted society as if tearing through the canvas of a landscape.

Marketing Information

  • Winner of the Premio Campiello 2021 and the Premio Strega Off 2021
  • Finalist at the Premio Strega 2021
  • Over 150.000 copies sold (15 reprints)
  • Top 20 in the Best-selling Charts since publication
  • French and English samples available