Nives by Sacha Naspini

If there’s anything that punishes the living, it is life itself. We don’t need to bring ghosts into it.

In a sense, when you’re of a certain age, every trace of days gone by seem to be populated by ghosts. Ghosts of feelings, of memories and always those we’ve loved and lost (living and dead). For Tuscany native and widow Nives, who has just lost her husband Anteo, everything in the world feels strange. Anteo had bore witness to her life from the age of twenty to over sixty years old and what is a life without someone to share it with? Unable to cry, not even in the presence of her own grown daughter Laura’s tears, she finds herself besieged by thoughts and restless nights once she is alone in the house again. Until…she brings the chicken Giacomina into her abode, replacing Anteo with “the crippled old hen” and what does that mean about her marriage, if she could patch up his absence with the presence of a bird? It seems a bit disgusting, no? Had she wasted her life with him? Then comes all the memories of their early days, why does she feel so bloodless and numb? Every moment with him seems to have sped by like a flash. Shouldn’t a widow feel bowled over by devastation when her beloved is breathing beside her no more? How bad was Anteo’s love that a chicken is preferred company, a happy substitute?

It alarms her daughter, who is back in France with her own husband and children, to discover by way of gossip that her mother has a chicken living in her home. Has her mother gone mad? Of course, Nives enjoys alarming Laura and asserting her right to do as she so pleases! Just as soon as Nives is content with this new arrangement, the chicken suddenly behaves oddly, becoming still as a statue, as if she is the living dead. Nothing she attempts rouses the hen out of her stupor and her only resolution is to telephone her old friend Loriano Bottai, the local veterinarian and drunkard for the cause and cure. It is this phone call that tells the real story, a conversation filled with surprising humor, intimacy and untold secrets. The readers are privy to stories about the locals, some with tragic ends and others who played the gigolo when they were young, handsome and ‘full of fireworks’. Deaths, affairs, murder- intrigues and mysteries abound.

I devoured this novel, we take a little trip through Nives history and find that those old folks who snore like horn-players were once just as wild as the rest of us. That it’s easy to get yourself snared in traps of your own making and that sometimes truth can make you see clearly. Yes, read it!

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Europa Editions

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