A sensually charged novel about two girls growing up fast in a failing industrial town on the coast of Italy
Anna and Francesca are on the brink of everything: high school, adulthood, and the edge of ambition in their provincial town. It's summer in Piombino, Italy, and in their skimpy bathing suits, flaunting their newly acquired curves, the girls suddenly have everyone in their thrall. This power opens their imagination to a destiny beyond Piombino; the resort town of Elba is just a ferry ride away and yet they've never dared to go. Maybe the future is waiting for them there, or somewhere beyond.
When their friendship suffers a blow, the girls set off on their own only to discover that their budding sexuality takes them further than they expect, though not as far as their dreams. As their choices take them to a painful crossroads, the girls must reconnect if they have any hope of escaping their small town destinies.
In this poetic, prizewinning debut, Silvia Avallone captures the lost innocence of a generation. Harrowing yet ultimately redemptive, Swimming to Elba is a story about the power of friendship, and the way that family, friendship, and economics shape our world.
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June 14, 2012
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Excerpt from Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone
Within the round blur of the lens, the body, headless, shifted slightly.
A backlit wedge of flesh pulled into focus.
From last year to this, that body had changed, slowly, under its clothing. And now, this summer, in the binoculars, it was bursting into view.
The distant eye nibbled at the details: the strap of the swimsuit, the swimsuit bottom, a strand of seaweed on the hip. Muscles flexing just above the knee, the arc of the calf, an ankle dusted with sand. The eye swelled and reddened with the effort of burrowing into the lens.
The teenage body leaped out of the field of view and plunged into the water.
A moment later--the viewfinder now prepositioned and the focus recalibrated--the body reappeared, topped by a gleaming blond head of hair. And aburst of laughter so violent--even from this distance, just the sight of it--that it shook you down to the ground. It felt like you had tumbled into that laugh, past the white teeth. And the dimples on the cheeks, and the hollow between the shoulder blades, and the indentation of the belly button, and all the rest.