Thursday, 31 August 2000

Giovanni Guareschi: The House that Nino Built (1953)

Translation: Frances Frenaye, 1953
Edition: Gollancz, 1954
Review number: 592

In a similar vein of light-hearted charm to the much better known Don Camillo series, The House that Nino Built seems to have dated more. It is the story of the move made by artist and author Nino and his family from the town to the country. It gives the appearance of being, like most of the Don Camillo stories, originally columns from a magazine.

The main reason that the stories have dated is because of their attitude to women, which is patronising to say the least. Nino views his wife almost like a favourite pet, and is continually writing about her irrationality. Attitudes to children have also changed a lot since the mid fifties.

The annoyance produced by this militates against the charm of the stories, making them seem rather coy. The best few, such as the tale of Nino's daughter's first communion, break through this, but most do not. The fault is generally exacerbated by the exaggerations which creep into what are obviously intended to appear to be semi-autobiographical stories. (These exaggerations are presumably meant to be humorous, but are too overdone to really be so.) This is particularly the case with descriptions of the inconveniences of the new house in the country, which include doors opening onto walls because of the unplanned way in which it was renovated.

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