cover image Margherita Dolce Vita

Margherita Dolce Vita

Stefano Benni, , trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar. . Europa, $14.95 (226pp) ISBN 978-1-933372-20-4

Margherita Dolce Vita, the eccentric 14-year-old heroine of Benni's Italian bestseller, has a "fusilli farm" of blonde curls and lives at the "colorless and necessary outskirts of town" with her quirky family. Like her collector-of-aged-junk father, Margherita prefers the magic and mystery of the past to the digital flash of contemporary youth. So when the Del Benes family suddenly arrives next door in a blaze of gaudy gadgets, it jars her sensibilities, especially after it seems as though Margherita's parents and older brother have blindly fallen for the Del Beneses' "plasma megascreen" and other trappings. Resolving to break their spell, Margherita enlists her science-genius little brother, Heraclitus; her gentle and erratic grandfather Socrates; and her loyal, narcoleptic dog Sleepy, and wages war. That Margherita's is an allegorical war for modern, suburbanizing Italy's soul—indeed for la dolce vita —won't be lost on U.S. readers: Benni is sly and spiky in his satire (Margherita's faded-beauty mother smokes "Virtuals") and gives Margherita a voice that is sophisticated and funny ("I embraced my teddy bear Pontius in an unobtrusively erotic manner"). Margherita carries one along through this winning romp with nary a false note. (Nov.)