I’m often – naively – shocked by the power a short story, or in this case a novella, can have despite lacking the length of a full novel. With You and Me, Niccolò Ammaniti has created a gem that takes but a couple of hours to enjoy though the story will stick with you for a long time to come.
In fact it is a simple idea that runs as the backbone of the novella. Lorenzo is an introverted boy whose parents are unhappy when he is unable to make friends at school. In trying to make them happy Lorenzo lies to them, telling them of a one week ski trip he will be enjoying with his school friends – he will really be camping in the basement of his building living off of a stock of canned food and playing Soul Reaver on his PlayStation.
Niccolò never directly comes out and tells us if something has happened to Lorenzo in the past or if he has a form of learning difficulty, but there are a few hints through flashbacks to therapy sessions. It’s obvious to us that something bothers Lorenzo, he needs protecting but also has a determination to be the protector of his life, particularly his mother. Niccolò sets us up with a plot forming in our own minds and then reveals the true purpose of the cast in what becomes a harrowing, but ultimately beautiful, story of familial tenderness.
It’s with the entry of Lorenzo’s half sister that his world of seclusion is shattered and he has to change his various perspectives of the relationships in which he finds himself. Niccolò manages to twist the emotions of the reader but not just in the way he writes. Often it’s what isn’t said that is the most foreboding. When the reader is left to fill in the blanks the plot deepens and becomes even more tense. Though what he does say is impacting and saddening, even in the staccato speech of Lorenzo.
I was actually disappointed that Me and You was a novella because I was so utterly wrapped up in the writing and the characters. This is most definitely a book that many should read.
Published by Canongate. This book was kindly sent by the publisher for review.