As I live on an island that lies between Sicily and North Africa, I have a tendency of gravitating towards literature (and films) from both cultures as it’s very easy to relate to the situations presented in the novel. Add that to the fact that I’m a fan of coming of age novels and you could see why I rate I’m not Scared so highly. Ever since it’s 2003 publication I’ve read the book quite a few times so it does feature heavily when I recommend books to friends.
It’s 1978 in Southern Italy and it’s a blazing summer day (trust me I know what a blazing summer day is. As I’m typing this review at 5:30am I’m already dripping sweat from every pore) and a group of children stumble upon a kidnapped boy who’s being kept in someone’s farmyard. One of the boys, Michele strikes up a friendship and he stumbles upon a lot of disturbing secrets about the boy’s history, which leads to some nasty consequences. It’s also worth noting that in the 70’s there were a lot of abductions happening around Italy and it lasted till the early 80’s so Ammaniti’s plot is not that bizarre or far fetched.
As expected these events lead to a loss of innocence but Ammaniti is not ready to say that there is a distinction between child and adult. In fact both worlds do share many similarities, something the film director Giuseppe Tornatore presents in both Cinema Paradiso and Malena.
Like I said earlier I could relate to a lot of stuff here. Groups of children playing games, fields, the way of life. Not only does I’m Not Scared focus upon growing up but it’s also about the beauty of Southern Italy, a beauty with a dangerous agenda lying beneath it. No matter how ugly the situation is there’s always some aesthetic description scattered throughout the book. The translation is excellent so nothing is lost.
With I’m Not Scared Ammaniti achieves many literary heights but in it’s essence, what you’ve got is an addictive story. As a word of caution, Salvatores film doesn’t do much justice to the book as he adapted the ending of his movie to create a more optimistic outcome but really just makes the film inferior. Seek out the novel first and you’ll be more satisfied in the long run.