The climax of Kinsky’s quietly powerful novel—a pair of earthquakes that hit northeastern Italy in 1976—happens before the book begins, but its aftershocks continue. In a mesmerizing narrative that has the immediacy of oral history, she interweaves the stories of seven people who experienced the disaster, punctuating their accounts with third-person reflections on the plants, animals, and even the rocks of the affected region. In answering the question, “what had this night done to us?” Kinsky delivers a visceral natural and cultural history that details—in rugged and often exquisite prose—the area’s agricultural practices, its language, folklore, and more. As we come to know the protagonists we also learn what shaped them; in addition to relatable family dynamics, disappointments, and economic worries, they are the products of violin and pipe music that with “its minor variations…is infinite,” as well as the fables ingrained in the landscape, the thistles, orchids, and roses growing on top of it, and, for centuries, of the rombo, that low rumble beneath the ground announcing the next upheaval.
Starting with its perfect title, this seemingly simple story written in a simple and clear language (one with a European sensibility I can personally relate to) has the power of a remarkable, even magical novel. In it Kitamura explores the gap between getting close to people and really understanding what's going on under the surface--a theme reinforced by the quiet melancholy of a narrative that reflects on the past decade's political and cultural chaos, yet ends with the promise of home and connection.
I loved this beautiful novel, with its imperfect lives, disappointing careers, and relationships gone awry simply because of people being people. While ballet fans won't want to miss this one, it's a great novel about art, ambition, and the movement of bodies through space and time that will appeal to everyone.