A Tale of Two Cities

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mcbadger Avatar


I found this an interesting book, which told the tale of Amerigo Sperenza and the two pieces of his life, centered upon two different cities. This story is based on a true event which took place in Italy shortly after the end of the Second World War. Amerigo, a poor, fatherless boy sent to northern Italy, as one of a number of children from Naples, to be fostered for a time by communist families. The story is told in the first person, first by the seven-year old Amerigo, who plays a game of counting good shoes on people for luck. We understand more than he does about what is transpiring, as well as learning of his difficult relationship with his rather distant mother. We follow his near-constant terror in the early days of the trip. However, he finds love and acceptance with the people who take him and is exposed to a better lifestyle than he had know in Naples.
This creates a serious disconnect with his former life when he returns home. He faces the difficult choice of staying in this poverty with a distant mother or fleeing back to the north and asking them to take him in.
His decision drives the second section of the novel, told many years later by his older self, where we learn the consequences of the choices he made and the conflicts they leave within him.
The book is well-written. I was impressed with how the author Ardona was able to create two distinct yet authentic voices for Amerigo's, each consistent for each age and educational level of that section, yet both clearly the same character. The book raises a number of difficult ethical issues as they play out in the life of Amrigo. We are left to weigh the consequences, both good and bad, of what is thought to be a benevolent event.