Things No One Knows is the first novel by the Italian author Alessandro D’Avenia. The novel centers around a group of insightful – if slightly damaged – people, and how their interactions with one another affect their lives.
The main character is Margherita. Despite being only fourteen, she is very intuitive and envisions life in a beautiful, very sad way. She seems beyond her years in that respect. But at the root, she is still a child, toeing the line into adulthood:
“At age fourteen you are a barefoot tightrope walker on your own thread, and balance is a miracle.”
Margherita suffers in silence as the school year – her first year in high school! – begins. Her father left her family months before, and Margherita pines for him. In a very dramatic scene, prompted by hearing her father’s voice on the answering machine, Margherita curls up in her parents’ closet, likening it to a womb. As a reader, I found Margherita’s suffering very painful to read. As she refuses to eat and begins to physically wither, I hoped for some change.
There are two other characters that stand out in this novel, although I must admit that the supporting characters are all just as unique and intriguing. There is Giulio, the upperclassman with icy eyes, a penchant for stealing, and a gift for reading body language. He feels drawn to the quiet Margherita at first glance. The other character at the forefront is the young Professor. He is eccentric and excitable, and his entire apartment is filled with books. He is in love with Stella, a young woman who works in a bookshop. However, when she suggests they take their relationship to a new level, he shies away.
All three of these characters have their issues, and they all learn from each other. In all honesty: as a reader, I grew tired of their pining and whining. There is only so much introspection I’m able to take before I want action. Don’t get me wrong: the words in D’Avenia’s story are absolutely beautiful. I meditated on quite a few points, specifically Stella’s idea of what love is:
“….To love is something else; it’s a verb, an action. It’s not watching a film about some far-off land, but actually going there, together…”
While I am always a fan of parallels to The Odyssey by Homer, I grew weary of the Professor’s lessons and the large quoted passages from this epic. While in the story the students are utterly captivated by these lessons, I felt bored. I’ve already read The Odyssey, in my own literature classes. I wanted to be a part of something different.
So yes, I thought that the writing in Things No One Knows was very beautiful, but I wanted a little less meditation and a lot more action. If you’re looking to read a book that makes you think, I’d suggest picking this one up. However, be prepared to wade through the issues these characters present.
Release Date: April 15, 2014