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review 2021-11-26 19:39
Die Geschichte einer Arbeitsmigrantin
Wenn ich wiederkomme - Marco Balzano

Daniela Matei (47) steht vor einer schweren Entscheidung. In ihrem kleinen rumänischen Dorf hat ihre Familie eine schlechte Zukunftsperspektive. Ihr Mann Filip ist arbeitslos. Gute Bildung für ihre Tochter Angelica und ihren Sohn Manuel ist jedoch teuer. Und das Haus verfällt aus Geldmangel zusehends. Heimlich schleicht sich Daniela daher eines Morgens aus dem Haus, um in Mailand eine Stelle als private Altenpflegerin anzunehmen.


„Wenn ich wiederkomme“ ist ein Roman von Marco Balzano.


Meine Meinung:
Der Roman besteht aus drei Teilen, die sich in unnummerierte Kapitel gliedern. Erzählt wird in chronologischer Reihenfolge in der Ich-Perspektive, aber aus der Sicht unterschiedlicher Personen. Dadurch entstehen einige Überlappungen, jedoch nicht zu viele inhaltliche Redundanzen.


In sprachlicher Hinsicht ist der Roman sehr gelungen. Je nach Erzählperspektive ist die Wortwahl jugendlich oder erwachsener, mehr oder weniger umgangssprachlich. Insgesamt ist der dialoglastige Schreibstil allerdings recht einfach, was dem Bildungsniveau der Protagonisten und Protagonistinnen hervorragend entspricht und daher für mich kein Manko darstellt.


Den meisten Raum in der Geschichte nimmt Daniela ein. Aber auch ihre Kinder Manuel und Angelica spielen wichtige Rollen. Keiner der Charaktere ist mir so richtig sympathisch - mit Ausnahme einer Nebenfigur. Sie blieben mir seltsam fremd. Gut gefällt mir aber, dass die Personen aufgrund ihrer Grautöne und Schwächen sehr lebensnah und mit psychologischer Tiefe ausgestaltet sind.


Besonders gereizt hat mich an der Lektüre die Situation der billigen Pflegekräfte aus dem Ausland. Die Geschichte lenkt den Blick auf ein wichtiges Thema. Meine Erwartung an den Roman hat sich dahingehend erfüllt, dass die Geschichte darstellt, wie sich die zeitweise Arbeitsmigration auf die betroffenen Frauen und ihre Familien auswirkt - sowohl in sozialer als auch in psychischer Hinsicht. Der Autor hat sich intensiv mit dieser Problematik auseinandergesetzt. Das geht unter anderem aus der Nachbemerkung hervor. Darin erklärt der Autor auch, dass er mit Absicht weitere Aspekte in die Geschichte aufgenommen hat. Mir hätte ein deutlicherer Fokus besser gefallen.


Auf rund 300 Seiten kann der Roman mit mehreren Wendungen überraschen. Die Geschichte ist kurzweilig, aber konnte mich leider nicht so sehr berühren wie erhofft. Das Ende lässt einige Fragen offen und somit Spielraum für eigene Interpretationen.


Das Cover ist hübsch, wirkt allerdings recht willkürlich. Der deutsche Titel ist erfreulicherweise wörtlich aus dem Italienischen („Quando tornerò“) übersetzt worden.


Mein Fazit:
„Wenn ich wiederkomme“ von Marco Balzano ist trotz seiner Schwachpunkte ein lesenswerter Roman, der Aufmerksamkeit für eine wichtige Problematik erzeugt.

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review 2020-08-20 10:02
Marco Malvaldi - La briscola in cinque
La briscola in cinque - Marco Malvaldi

During the lockdown me and my parents got into a tv series, "I delitti del Bar Lume" (The murders of the Bar Lume, barlume meaning "glimmer" or "spark", and being a pun about the name of a bar). It's a comedy/whodunit series that follows the investigations on a series of murders that happen in the fictional small Tuscan town of Pineta. All cases are usually solved either by or with the help of Massimo, the owner of the above mentioned Bar Lume.


Personally, I found the writing of the tv series perfectly average, especially as it went on and focused more on comedy and (not particularly well done) character development than the investigations. However, the great casting made the series actually enjoyable, and more than made up for the flaws in the script. Out of curiosity, I decided to pick up the first of the books on which the series is based, in part to compare and contrast and because I enjoy a good detective story during the summer.


Overall, this was a very solid comedic whodunit. The plot is overall the same (a small town murder, whose resolution is made slightly difficult by the fact that everyone in the town thinks they know everything about everyone else), but the style of humour is definitely the main difference between the source material and the series, much more subtle in the book.


The biggest surprise was how the characters were quite different, I guess to make them work better in a more comedic environment - for example, in the book the chief of police is Vinicio Fusco, a middle-aged, self-absorbed and slightly thick man, while in the tv series the character is a woman, Vittoria Fusco, in her late thirties/early forties, no-nonsense to the point of being abrasive, who's constantly passed over for promotions by incompent men, in part because of sexism and her general attitude towards other people. Another huge difference is how Massimo Viviani, the main character, in the series is pretty much a loser who happens to get lucky in frequent but very short bursts, while he's much more dignified in the book.


The title of the book refers to the game of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briscola">Briscola</a>", a card game that's commonly played in bars by elderly people. It's usually played in even numbered groups of people, so the version that's played in this story is a completely made up one where, instead of people playing in teams of two, everybody is playing against everyone else - something that is used for the obligatory epiphany moment that Massimo has about the real culprit towards the end.


As a whodunit, it's solidly written, though nothing mindblowing, and the more subtle writing makes the reading more interesting and gripping. A good read, not just for summer.

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review 2020-03-24 02:20
Metaficton, Murders, and Tom Cruise, Oh My!
The Awful Truth About The Sushing Prize - Marco Ocram
With notable exceptions—among whom I would include you, my friend—writers are the most egotistical of all humans. The desire to be published is a desire for attention. When one writer draws less attention than another they suffer a humiliating insult to their psychological ego centres.

After compiling last Saturday's Miscellany post, and thinking about this book, I've decided that I really should have read The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker before starting this one. Just what I've gleaned online about this book makes it seem like Denis Shaughnessy Marco Ocram was fairly influenced on it for at least the backstory and a couple of the character names for this present novel. I'm curious about how much more than that I'd have picked up if I'd read Dicker before the palindromic Ocram, but it's not a necessary pre-requisite.


I have, however, read Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe, which this novel also reminded me of. I'm pretty sure I haven't come across anything in Crime Fiction that I could compare to Leyner before, so that's saying something.


The Ocram that's the narrator of The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize, like the protagonist Leyner, is a mega-selling author and celebrity, master of multiple disciplines. One thing that Ocram can do that Leyner couldn't* is he can shape the course of the novel—or a scene he's in the middle of—because he's writing his reality. Which I hope makes sense. (Think of the movie Stranger than Fiction, but Will Ferrell's character is calling the shots).


* As I recall, anyway. It's been a couple of decades since my last re-read.


In an attempt to get out of watching sports with his friend, the Chief of Police Como Galahad, Ocram invents a body down at the port. The two go to investigate and end up in dealing with criminals from around the globe in a scheme that defies reason (but makes a lot of sense when the details are revealed).


Most of the book is truly outlandish and implausible, but it fits this tour of absurdity better than you could imagine.


The weakness of this book comes from its strength and premise, the novel is so clever and adheres so much to the conceit that it gets in the way of telling a good story with some depth to the characters. It's still a decent story with amusing characters—but I think if the writer had pulled back a little from his commitment to the premise it'd be a better novel. Of course, if he had, I'd probably complain about him pulling his punches. So take this with a handful of salt.


"I heard six shots. You didn’t get him with any of them?”


“No, but they think I hit his car.”


“Good shooting. Next time I need to hit a barn door from ten paces I’ll ask you along for advice.”


“It’s easy to be sarcastic, but don’t forget I’ve never used a gun before.”


“That’s true. At least you worked out which was the shooty end. Could have been messy otherwise.

The humor is sometimes as subtle as a sledgehammer attacking a watermelon. Then within a sentence or two, something will be slipped in so cleverly that I had to re-read it a couple of times to make sure that what I thought was funny was supposed to be. I generally preferred the latter, but some of the obvious jokes were so well done that I don't want to knock the frequent lack of subtlety. I've gone back to this next line so many times over the last couple of days, and still chuckle at it:

He’s meant to be one of the most intelligent people in the world. An autodidact too.”


“He can spout as much about cars as he likes...

The metafictional aspect of the novel is largely used for humorous ends—although sometimes it's a tool to progress the plot, too. Sure, sometimes it's used for loftier ends (à la Leyner's work), but the emphasis here is for entertainment value. Which saves it from becoming a self-indulgent, pretentious mess rather than being what it is: self-indulgent fun. Here's a few lines (I could produce many more) as illustration:

Which left the agency driver—just as I’d suspected when I made him up.


It was the oldest plot twist in the book (so far, anyway). I wagged my head at the thought of how predictable it all was.


Back in the car park, I made a convenient continuity error and climbed into my black Range Rover, hoping my readers wouldn’t remember that I’d left it at a burnt-out warehouse three chapters ago.

There are a couple of instances where the author switches from past tense to present because the events being described are so intense. I found myself grinning while reading each time it happened. It's a delightfully inspired choice.


I chuckled, I looked up a couple of words, I wondered about the author's sanity and really enjoyed myself while reading this. Sure, I wanted a little more depth, a little more reason to connect with any of the characters or the story—but I knew I wasn't supposed to. The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize is an impressive novel, clever and amusing—and if you can embrace the absurdity behind it, you'll be glad you read it (and you'll probably still enjoy it if you don't fully get on board with the absurdity, but you'll have to work harder for it).


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/03/23/the-awful-truth-about-the-sushing-prize-by-marco-ocram-metaficton-murders-and-tom-cruise-oh-my
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review 2020-01-29 13:21
Travels In The Land of Serpents And Pearls
Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls (Little Black Classics #16) - Marco Polo

I hope Marco Polo was a better explorer than he was a writer, because this was not good. I'm now going to tell you what was bad. The writing. I've now told you what was bad. The booklet is filled with these completely unnecessary sentences where Polo explains what he is going to say in the next or has said in the last paragraph. Maybe the people of his time had a short attention span, but it really annoyed me. Also, unicorns in this supposedly non-fiction report.

~Little Black Classics #16~

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review 2019-09-19 17:11
Oh, look, another overhyped work involving vampires!
V-Wars: The Graphic Novel Collection - Jonathan Maberry,Alan Robinson,Marco Turini

I came across this last night while browsing the graphic novel section at my local B&N, and I decided to give it a try. It's about a virus that transforms 1% of the human population into vampires of all types, and the resulting clash with the remaining 99% of the human population.


To be honest it wasn't terrible, and I powered through it in about an hour. But my discontent with it came to the surface when I read the promotional blurbs from Maberry's fellow authors:


After reading those, I wondered if they were talking about the same book. A "fresh take"? All Maberry did was take some elements that have been in circulation for the past few years (a little from Daybreakers, a chunk from The Passage, some elements from Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, etc.) and mix them together in different proportions. It took all of the "high-thinking" of a Hollywood executive who thinks "fresh" is defined doing the same thing in only a cosmetically different way.


Perhaps I wouldn't have reacted as negatively as I did if it wasn't for the recycling of so many tropes and stereotypes. Bleeding-heart liberal who tries to hold onto his humanity in inhumane times? Check. Close-knit squad of soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later? Check. Deep state conspiracy pursuing a different agenda? Check. And so on. As I said it's not terrible, but it certainly doesn't justify the hype it's received.


Perhaps I'm being too critical, but it's frustrating to see how so much horror out is celebrated for its originality when all it's doing is following the dominant paradigm. A couple of decades ago, the idea of a world in which vampires were omnipresent would have been innovative. Now I read something like this and it just has a "been there-done that" feel to it. It's an insult to truly imaginative work to peddle something like this as it, no matter how many authors you can find to provide positive jacket quotes.

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