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Fredonia Books (NL)
Isabel Florence Hapgood
March 18, 2018 March 21, 2018

Written following the Italian war for independence by a sub-lieutenant who had fought in the siege of Rome in 1870, Heart is the fictional diary of a boy's third year in a Turin municipal school. It was written to foster juvenile appreciation of the newfound Italian national unity, which the author had fought for in the recent war. The book is often highly emotional, even sentimental, but gives a vivid picture of urban Italian life at that time. A master, introducing a new pupil, tells the class, "Remember well what I am going to say. That this fact might come to pass--that a Calabrian boy might find himself at home in Turin, and that a boy of Turin might be in his own home in Calabria, our country has struggled for fifty years, and thirty thousand Italians have died." The novel became internationally popular, and has been translated into over twenty-five languages, and is part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works. Edmondo de Amicis (1846-1908) established a reputation as a writer in various genres after his experience as a soldier.

About the book

This is a book that when I was a child everyone told me “read it”, “it’s a beautiful book for kids” and now that I read it, I wonder how is it that a book so “out of the Italian language” being for children? I need to say that I read this book just because, for the Challenge of Popsugar, I had to read “a book from my childhood that I wanted to read and I never read”, otherwise, as I said on Goodreads where I added all the books that I own, I would have never read it.

First of all, the book was written in the nineteenth century so obviously the Italian is not the Italian of today, so I wonder how a child/boy who has just started his journey in the Italian language can fully understand what is written. Not all the book is like that but if it is not fluent for me because of ancient Italian, how can it be for a boy? How can a child like this book? Now I know why I never read it when I was young, as soon as I started it I gave up.

It’s not my style, I admit it, I do not like diaries (I tried to read Anna Frank’s diary three thousand times but I always gave up after a while), so I did not like it as a book. I read it as if it were one of those books that teachers gave us to read in school and we had to read them for grades, without enjoying it and perhaps without paying so much attention (for this reason, I don’t remember the plots of books that they forced me to read in school).

The monthly stories, then, are not so happy… “the Lombard watchman” dies, “the Sardinian tambourine” loses one leg, one shipwrecked, I almost started crying with “Romagna blood”. I know they are stories of war, the novel is set after the war of the union of Italy, but hell the sadness…

In Italy, at the end of the nineteenth century, piety is a bad thing, or rather when the teacher talks about blind children it seems that being blind is the end of the world. Apart from that I do not understand why blind children have to live in the institute, but then again we are in the ‘800 and it’s a period too far away from me, but as the teacher talks, it seems that being blind means dying, he also says that these children are happy in their way, but it almost seems that they are not human beings… and with other stories too, not just this. The poor, the crippled, it is true they make compassion, but certainly not pity, even nowadays they do not even want our pity, maybe they are even happier than us!

But poor Enrico (the narrator) never wins any prize? He’s good with everyone, but can he get at least some “well done” from the teacher? The others get all the awards, the others get all the medals…. even at the end of the school year, it doesn’t say whether he was promoted or not.

Robetti… But was is so difficult in the past when you broke a bone? Nine months of crutches? But I have to say that today’s kids could learn a lot from this book. The respect that once was there is not really anymore. Oh, I too, sometimes reading Enrico’s mother who is so paternalistic and says “when I will die” I say “really? you have nothing better to say?” But the respect that the students have towards adults today is an alien thing… Even towards the unlucky children… Now they are teased heavily. Even before they were mocked, but not like now and there was more solidarity between peers…

I can not figure out how old the boys are. They speak of upper and lower, of gymnasium, but they are completely different from our grades today… Maybe they are in elementary school third grade? Or middle school third grade? (which is 8th grade in America?) I do not understand…

Summing up, I read this book only for the Challenge, I would never have dreamed of reading it if I had seen it now in the library (too far from what I like) and I do not think it is a book suitable for children, but only for the language and also for a few excruciating stories.

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