cover image ENCHANTMENTS


Linda Ferri, , trans. from the Italian by John Casey with Maria Sanminiatelli. . Knopf, $18.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4069-8

Small clouds lurk at the edge of the sun-drenched days in screenwriter Ferri's (The Son's Room ) first novel, making this fictional memoir of a privileged Italian girlhood all the more enchanting. The unnamed young narrator considers her father to be "magical," though she notices his eyes are "like a monster's" and he engages in "uncertain business affairs." Envisioning herself as a "sorrowful tragic heroine," she betrays her beloved sister by transferring classes at school, demands to play the dying Beth in homemade productions of Little Women and sharpens her preteen self-righteousness on her parents. When not helping to stage elaborate circuses in their rambling apartment, her two older brothers hang dolls from curtain rods. But this mesmeric world proves to be as sweet and as fleeting as her rare nighttime treat of a sugar cube moistened with cognac. Sex and death, those twinned symbols of adulthood, drift ever closer, and the lyrical episodes gambol toward a melancholic finale that changes the girl into a grownup. Melissa P.'s recently published erotic diary of an Italian adolescent, 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed , begins just beyond the chronological boundaries of Ferri's chaste story (her narrator stands at the threshold of the "gymnasium of seduction"). Both works, equally powerful and idiosyncratic, explore the multiple moments that mark the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. (Feb.)