A sensually charged novel about two girls growing up fast in a failing industrial town on the coast of Italy....
Anna and Francesca are on the brink of everything: high school, adulthood, and the edge of ambition in their provincial town. It’s summer in Piombino, Italy, and in their skimpy bathing suits, flaunting their newly acquired curves, the girls suddenly have everyone in their thrall. This power opens their imagination to a destiny beyond Piombino: the resort town of Elba is just a ferry ride away and yet they’ve never dared to go. Maybe the future is waiting for them there, or somewhere beyond.
When their friendship suffers a blow, the girls set off on their own, only to discover that their budding sexuality takes them further than they expect, though not as far as their dreams. As their choices take them to a painful crossroads, the girls must reconnect if they have any hope of escaping their small town destinies.
In this poetic, prizewinning debut, Silvia Avallone captures the lost innocence of a generation. Harrowing yet ultimately redemptive, Swimming to Elba is a story about the power of friendship, and the way that family, friendship, and economics shape our world.
I listened to this book through Audible, on a few long haul flights but didn't really get the depth of it until I went back and listened again, filling in bits I'd missed. It's actually full of insights into life in a poor town in Italy, but it's a bit slow and didn't grab me on the first listen.
Anna and Francesca are the main characters, best friends, teenage girls, they do absolutely everything together. But there are aspects of each other's lives that can't be shared, things that go on beyond closed doors.
They live in a town where the steel mill is the main employer and drugs, teenage sex, crime and abuse are the norm. There is little hope for the future and meager incentive for self-improvement.
The author paints a wonderful picture of summer in Piombino, Italy - the heat, the atmosphere, the oppressive feel of a run-down seaside town, tenement buildings and the desperate need to BE someone. As the two girls develop into young women over this long summer, their friendship is tested, along with their morality and their family ties.