“What is the precise moment when we discover that flying is the prerogative of birds and butterflies?“
It looked like beauty but it was not: it was pain, suffering, rejection of oneself and of others, admiration mixed with envy and hatred; it looked like youth and instead it was bullying, prevarication and violence; it looked like the success and glory of one’s career and instead it was escape and tears and the constant search for what is not there or is no longer there.
The protagonist is a writer, who openly and clearly is the narrator, gives the reader access, through the whirlwind of her thoughts, to her life, to what has happened to it in the merciless progress of time. A stream of consciousness that, surprisingly and out of the rules we are used to, turns directly to us.
It is a very cruel and very real story, which calls us into question and makes us say “yes, I thought so too”; it is a constant mea culpa in the life of the protagonist who alone puts herself in the pillory, without fear, without frills or sweetenings of various kinds and without pretending to be really listened to: yes we listened to the story of Livia and Federica and yours . We don’t want to know the surnames because Livia and Federica can be our friends or family; they are among us and no one had ever told us in this way about how heavy and hard everything can be to live: better to flee.
It is the story of adolescents forced to live, more or less consciously, terrible stories: of violence, abuse, friendships, as are adolescent friendships: bold and scared at times, clear but also dirty and hard to understand. It is the story of an unwanted mother, who must fight to try to be accepted even though she does not have the right weapons: it is an unequal and ruthless fight.
It is the story of Livia, the beautiful and envied Livia; the girl everyone wants, with her blond hair and blue eyes; Livia who stops to talk to strangers, who conquers boys and then throws them away; Livia is beautiful and pursues beauty, crystallized by time and her body: Livia remained a teenager in the body of a fifty-year-old, is she still beauty?
The writing is impetuous, which, although at first it alienated us, then it totally captured us and we understood that such a direct story could only be told in this almost wild way: sentences swept by commas, periods, dashes; sentences broken by fears, anxieties, sins and scandals.
The protagonist confessed to us readers, but more to herself – she never needed our approval – but we tell you: yes, give her a swan or an attic, now. She deserves them.
Teresa Ciabatti, It looked like beauty, Mondadori, Milano, 2021