Friday 17 October 2008

Book Review: Niccolo Ammaniti - I'm Not Scared

This did not seem like the kind of book I would usually go for, the title itself reminded me of the whole victim genre (harrowing tales of child abuse available in every supermarket’s book aisle). The author’s Italian name (no indication of anything except that he is Italian really) and the Observer newspapers comparison to the Blair Witch Project made me think again.

The story begins with six children playing in the countryside during the hottest summer on record. Everywhere is gold with wheat and there is a feeling of freedom and space and innocence. The children play at races and dares and occasionally they stoop to the kind of cruelty that is reminiscent of Golding’s Lord of the Flies. The main protagonist, a boy of nine called Michelle, enters a dilapidated old house on a dare and finds something unspeakably horrible.

The blurb of the book promises “…a discovery so momentous, he dare not tell anyone about it” and when you realise the full extent of what he has find, it is rather terrible. Very early on the author skilfully notches up the tension from a feeling of childish playfulness to horror and outright panic.

The story is told from Michelle’s point of view and gives us an interesting, and I thought, fairly realistic child’s-eye view. The adults in the book are portrayed fairly negatively. Even characters that the child clearly adores, like his parents, when read with an adult eye, come across as less than pleasant. We see Michelle trying to tell his parents about his discovery and failing. The adults seem to be oblivious to their child’s distress and incapable of listening to him. This in itself made the child’s perspective more of an authentic one for me.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but if you can stomach the cruelty and rather painful ending, you might want to give it a go.

1 comment:

  1. this looks pretty interesting-will see if i can find a copy on ebay...