The Italian Saga – review

The Italian Saga

The Italian Saga is an intricate coming-of-age story and captivating read, stuffed full of gender-role rebellion.

The first book in the Italian Saga series has the delightful title An Italian adventure: it will all make (less) sense when you grow up. The plot is structured around blossoming romance but traverses self-discovery, sexism and body image…

Our protagonist, Leda, who prefers to be called Lee, lives in the north of Italy. When we first meet Lee, at age 8, she has solid friendships and a comfortable routine. But the unavoidable process of ‘growing up’ begins and she struggles to combine a need for romance with her lack of the femininity considered to be the norm in the late 80s. Sicilian Nico has just moved into town and soon piques Lee’s curiosity. Can you guess Lee’s emerging dilemma?

The author, Gaia B Amman, was born and raised in Italy just like Lee.  Her main aim as an author is to help as many people as she can through her writing*. As a professor of molecular biology at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, she was once voted “the professor of the month” by her students. The award is no surprise when you consider the abundance of life-lessons – and Italian curses – I subconsciously absorbed from the saga: the protagonist’s curiosity and lack of a mentor leads her into a variety of fraught situations. Cleverly of Amman, as a reader you’ll discover the nuances of Lee’s world through her narration; we ‘grow up’ with her.

As a result, the story covers some often-avoided topics like divorce, drugs and sexual abuse. Lee finds herself harshly reminded that the world is full of unwelcome experiences, despite her regular pleas to Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the main constant in the series: every night we witness Lee’s prayer, each one a reflective summary of what’s just happened, indicating Lee’s progression as a person. Each prayer is, unsurprisingly, filled with the emotional turmoil of growing up.

If we look at The Italian Saga as a whole, each book is based around Lee’s summers. I feel like this focus on the summer holidays guides us towards Lee’s emotional growth, despite its correlation to her academic activities. So many teen romances novels contain protagonists who are unrealistically sure of their inner self, and I love how the main characters in The Italian Saga are truly just discovering themselves. I felt like I could relate to Leda’s internal dialogue so much more that way.

The saga is beautifully written; Amman manages a combination of light-heartedness with sophisticated descriptions. That’s no mean feat! My favourite scenes are ones where descriptions give the writing a cinematic quality. I can’t help but think how brilliantly these books would translate to the silver screen…

But what’s the best part? The saga isn’t finished! The next installment, Sex-O-S: The Tragicomic Adventure of an Italian Surviving the First Timeis out now!

* I would also recommend Gaia B Amnan’s official website for a great read. It’s the bible of indie author advice on writing!