Today I read Malavita by Tonino Benacquista which has been made into the movie The Family. It is not my usual genre, and I never would have picked it up if it had not been for a group I belong to who reads books which are made into movies. We go together to watch the movie and discuss the book and movie.
I had heard that Malavita was a French comedy about an American mob family. Perhaps it was the fact that the story was translated, or perhaps because I am not French and so do not have the same humor expectations, but I did not think the story was funny at all. Unrealistic, stereotyped characterizations, and exaggerated situations, but not funny. The only part that gave me a slight chuckle was when the father Giovanni/Fred ponders the inexplicable purpose of a semicolon. I love them (being semicolons), but I know they do throw some people for a loop. Especially people like Giovanni who neither read nor write very extensively.
One of the first things I learned as a Creative Writing major in college was how to keep the story moving. How to weed out unnecessary parts that slow down the story, or don’t provide some necessary meaning. This story was not as fine combed as I would have liked. There were several instances that I felt kept the story from moving forward. One of these pointless parts was when Giovanni/Fred’s nephew comes to visit. Ben really serves no purpose in the story. His arrival causes some irritation, but other than that, there is no reason or relation to the rest of the story.
There was also a great deal of sexual randomness. For example: Giovanni/Fred breaks a plumber's arms with a hammer. The narrator takes us home with the plumber (another unnecessary part that could have been weeded out). The plumber tells us about how he has this awful rash that he often has to bathe several times a day to make it stop itching. We get this incredibly awkward moment where his *clears throat* itches, and since he cannot scratch himself, he has his wife do it. Because of this, he is aroused and it rekindles their love life. WHAT?! So random, first of all. Second, what was the necessary information that drives the story forward? Oh right…none. And third, how would that possibly rekindle their love life?
I give this book a two out of five. While I definitely did not hate the book, I did not like it either. I often found myself skimming because I couldn’t take the unnecessary parts any more. I would, however, recommend reading it if you want to see the movie. They only changed a few details in the movie, and I think it accompanies the book very well.
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