Me and You
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Me and You

Niccolo Ammaniti, Kylee Doust

Lorenzo has a few issues. They include the fact that he doesn’t have, or want, any friends. Because this is making his parents unhappy, he tells them he has been invited on a skiing holiday with a group from school. In fact, he is planning to spend the week happily ensconced in the cellar of their apartment building with a supply of canned tuna. Then his estranged older sister Olivia turns up in the cellar with some issues of her own. Over the next few days, as Lorenzo helps her through her heroin withdrawal, they form an intense bond. And Olivia reveals some secrets that the family have kept from Lorenzo. Niccolo Ammaniti has been described as ‘the best novelist of his generation’. With this breathtaking novel, he has produced a small masterpiece.

Review

Me and You is a gem of a novel. Lorenzo is 14 years old and has no friends, which he knows concerns his parents. He devises the means to fit into social situations, but knows he is not part of the adolescent scene. This is not a concern to him: he likes being by himself. To pacify his parents, he tells them he has been invited away with friends for a week, but instead spends the week in the cellar of his parents’ apartment block. Happy there with his novels, comics and Playstation, his calm is disrupted by his estranged stepsister, who uses the cellar and himself as a base, as she overcomes heroin withdrawal. Desperately enclosed in their chosen environment, both young people learn more about their father and their own relationship with him.

Ammaniti writes with deliberate sparseness and is able to capture the angst of being different, being tired of societal constructions and the nature of family without fanfare. Me and You is a pared down coming-of-age story. Italian writer Ammaniti has the ability to draw you in from the first page and not let you go until completion.

This novel’s story is bittersweet, subtle and wonderfully entertaining. Ammaniti has been described as one of the best novelists of our time and has won many awards.

His previous novel, I’m Not Scared, has been translated into 35 different languages. Thank you to Text Publishing for bringing his words to Australia. I’ll be seeking out his other works immediately.

chris Christine Gordon is the Events Coordinator for Readings and is a committee member of The Stella Prize.

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