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Lives of the Saints (1990)

by Nino Ricci

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Vittorio Innocente trilogy (1)

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317561,409 (3.63)11
Spanning twenty years and two continents, Nino Ricci's award-winning trilogy is now an intimate epic of a young boy's journey into adulthood following the death of his free-spirited mother-and the family secrets she defiantly took to her grave.
  1. 00
    The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce (andja)
    andja: the both books have the same subtle soothing atmosphere of the world seen through the eyes of an exordinary child..

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English (4)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
There is something extremely sensuous and not a little Oedipal about the coming of age book [The Book of Saints] by Nino Ricci. Vittorio Innocente, such an ironic name for the narrator, is seven-years-old and being introduced to the rich world by his mother, Christina. His father has immigrated to Canada to work, and left Vittorio and Christina in a sleepy, somewhat backwards town in the Italian mountains. As the book opens, Vittorio is looking for his mother near their stables. He hears something behind the stable door, and is run down by a man when he cracks the door. His mother emerges, flustered and tries to convince Vitorrio that he didn’t see anything. Vittorio watches a green snake slither away from them and sees that his mother’s ankle has been bitten. The rest of the novel is driven by what Vittorio saw and what the townspeople began to suspect.

There is so much symbolic about the scene – a woman in the throes of passion, bitten by snake, on the ankle. It is all very biblical, check Genesis. The event begins to peel away Vittorio’s innocence. Everyone can point to some kind of similar event in their youth that quickened the hormonal advances. For Vittorio, the quickening begins at a time when he is just noticing his mother’s worldly beauty and sensuous nature. He loves her, as any boy does his mother, but he is also quite smitten with her, a feeling that Christina fosters in her open and provocative sexuality.

Vittorio, though, learns a great deal about the world from people other than his mother. When she begins to show evidence of her stable tryst, the tight knit village turns on her and her family, showing their true colors as superstitious, vindictive, and judgmental people. He also learns from his teacher at school, who tries to shield and support him from his classmates’ ridicule. And from those classmates, he begins to see what true friendship and loyalty looks like.

The book is about transformation; Vittorio’s transformation from innocence to worldly, Christina’s transformation from idle bitterness to bold action, and the town’s resistance to alter its close-minded, superstitious behavior.

Ricci continued the story with two other books, [In a Glass House] and [Where has She Gone], winning several well-deserved awards for this debut. Ricci is a smart, intuitive writer, able to wiggle into the skin of all of his characters and give the reader a glimpse at the internal lives of a diverse cast.

Bottom Line: A sensuous and very smart coming of age book.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | Jun 29, 2014 |
Lives of the Saints is the first book in a triology. I read the last book first, and I think that knowing the fate of Cristina and her son, Vittorio, really strengthened my enjoyment of this quiet novel set largely in rural Italy.

Seven-year-old Vittorio's mother, Cristina, is pregnant. Since his father has been away in Canada for several years, the child is obviously the product of an adulterous relationship and this causes many of the villagers to shun and scorn Cristina and her family (Vittorio and his grandfather).

Nino Ricci is a wonderful writer who can pack a lot of meaning and description into deceptively simple language. His characters' emotions are vivid and real. I look forward to completing this trilogy with the second book. ( )
  LynnB | Aug 30, 2009 |
a refreshing book, amazing and creative, full of unexpected scenes of a primitive italian willage ( )
  andja | Feb 18, 2009 |
Originally released in 1990, Lives of the Saints is Canadian author Nino Ricci’s first novel in the Vittorio Innocente trilogy and is published in over a dozen countries (it is published as The Book of Saints in the U.S.).

Ricci successfully evokes typical childhood growing pains, adding a layer of angst in a story rife with secrets and subtle streams of anger.

Vittorio Innocente’s father left their rural town in the Italian Apennines for Canada when Vittorio was barely three years old, leaving the child and his mother, Cristina, to care for a crippled grandfather and a meager farm. Vittorio, now almost seven, faces confusion and moral ambiguity as rumors surrounding his mother circulate among the townspeople.

We are introduced to the forces of good and evil that weave through Valle del Sole when Cristina is bitten by a snake, considered at once a symbol of good and an agent of the evil eye. The saying in the village went, ‘Do’l’orgoglio sta, la serpe se neva’—where pride is the snake goes. We are then led through Vittorio’s coming of age in an adult world filled with scandal, mystery, and hypocrisy.

Nino Ricci’s powerful prose sweeps the reader into his unsentimental tale of isolation, shame, rebellion, and innocence lost. ( )
  zinta | Sep 7, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ricci, NinoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eales, CeciliaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keates, MickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
RafyPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The places we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. [etc.] --Rembrance of Things Past / Marcel Proust
For my mother.
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Spanning twenty years and two continents, Nino Ricci's award-winning trilogy is now an intimate epic of a young boy's journey into adulthood following the death of his free-spirited mother-and the family secrets she defiantly took to her grave.

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Set in the Valle del Sole, a village nestled in the folds of the Italian Apennines, Lives of the Saints tells the story of young Vittorio Innocente, and his mother, Cristina, whose affair with a blue-eyed stranger abruptly shatters the innocence of Vittorio's childhood. As he tries to piece together the truth of his mother's crime, we discover through Vittorio's eyes the underside of Valle del Sole's pastoral calm, the age-old superstitions and fears, vestiges of a pagan past, beneath the villagers' veneer of Catholicism, and the hypocrisy and malice beneath their self-rightousness.
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