on April 4, 2011
Genni Gunn's new novel, Solitaria is a pleasure. Piera, the main character, is wonderful - well-intentioned in a way that only the narcissistic can be, poignant, very badly behaved, holding secrets and keys that are always subject to subjectivity. She is nicely counterpointed by her too dispassionate though affectionate nephew from Canada, the only person to whom she will reveal the key to the mystery - the story behind a body uncovered during renovations of a house on the Italian coast - the oldest brother in a family of 7. The story of the family is absorbing - I could see every two room house by the railway tracks among the scrub, the menace of the tracks nearby, the kids slightly out of control, the tired but very sexual parents. The writing is clear, lively, evocative. The structure with the discovery of the body and then taking the whole novel to reveal what happened worked beautifully ' I never felt manipulated and always just impatient enough. Gunn does a good job of describing the grinding poverty rural Italians experienced during and after World War II, often having only bread and wild dandelions with a teaspoon of oil to get by on. This is a world where sibling rivalry and resentment is much more real than the thin layer of expected familial love we project on the image screen we turn outward. Absorbing, pleasureable, intriguing.