Flatiron Books: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

Arturo's Island

First published in 1957, Arturo's Island is the story of a young boy, more or less abandoned by the father he idolizes, in a remote and dilapidated home on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples. Isolated and idealistic, Arturo lives through the books he reads--stories of adventure and heroes, in whose roles he imagines his father. Then, his father returns to Procida with a child bride, Nunziatella. At 16, she is only a few years older than Arturo, and the boy is plunged into a maelstrom of conflicting and passionate longing.

Arturo's Island won author Elsa Morante major Italian literary prizes when it was originally published, and it's no wonder. An intense coming-of-age story, this novel is complex and intricate and, at times, deeply painful. Morante's prose is blunt and curt, but also fanciful, revealing the romanticism that colors Arturo's understanding of the world. As his experiences force him into maturity, and his illusions about his father's virtue and nobility are shed, Arturo's struggle is poignant and violent. Morante is especially adept at communicating all the conflicting and deeply psychological meanings other people can hold for us. With deeply complicated characters and a surreal, ethereal setting, Arturo's Island is an incredibly compelling read. --Judie Evans, librarian