Saturday, September 1, 2018

White as Silence Red as Song by Alessandro D'Avenia

There are some reviews that are more difficult to write than others. I'm going to do my best in sharing about this novel without giving away too much. I really don't like reviews where the reviewer shares everything, front to back, about the novel. It pretty much stops me from wanting to read the book even if it looks promising. So, here we go. 

Why did I choose this novel? The cover captivated me. The title intrigued me. The author, from Italy, it being his first novel, well, that just really cool. 

I have to say I had really high expectations for this novel. I am trying to choose wisely when it is Thomas Nelson. Many are weaved in faith and most are beautiful reads, but there are others where faith is missing altogether or as in this novel written in such a way that if you were not already a Believer I'm not sure you would read between the lines. 

I can see young adults enjoying this novel. It is a romantic read told by the perspective of a sixteen year old boy. He is a mix of emotions and is trying to find his dream. He can be likeable one minute and the next he is a character you don't really enjoy, but isn't that pretty much a sixteen year old? 

Leo is super smart. He and his friends enjoy literature. He ponders everything. One minute he is wise beyond his years and the next he pretty much seems like he's more eleven than sixteen. Yes, Leo himself is a rollercoaster of everything. There too is a sweetness to him. His friend, Niko, is the buddy he does video games with and hangs out eating burgers. Their friendship is believable. They share about life, the things that they enjoy and dislike, but Leo keeps his boundaries. 

There is one that Leo shares everything with. This is the character, Silvia. She is the girl he shares his soul with. They talk about everything under the sun and to the moon and back. This is the relationship so many have in high school. They count on one another. When something happens they are the first to share with each other. They have a sweet relationship. 

And there is Beatrice. Leo's love. She has no idea he exists. They share classes together. He sees her everywhere, but he is simply a wallflower. He sees her as his wife. Head over heals in love is what Leo is. I think we can all relate to this. To him she is far above his level, but he continues to try to gain her attention. Only Silvia knows of this great love and together as friends, she joins him in trying to get them to meet. After all, Silvia knows Beatrice. All Leo wants to do is devote his life to this red haired beauty. It's as if he believes if they can be together all of life will make sense and life will finally be happy. 

Beatrice gets sick. Leukemia. She is in and out of the hospital. What I love? Leo gives blood for his fair beauty. She has no idea. He has an accident and ends up in the same hospital. It is here we see him ache over what he fears will happen to Beatrice before he can ever share with her that he loves her. 

Leo has an up and down relationship with his parents. Another portrait on the life of a teenager. So many things in this novel made such clear sense to me. There are times in our lives when in just a few short months it seems we have grown to understand much about life. This is what happens with Leo. 

All during this story there is one character who stands out to me. He is the substitute teacher. The one that Leo calls the Dreamer. He is that teacher every child deserves. He's that teacher who reaches out and goes far beyond what is expected. He and Leo form a bond and it is this Dreamer who helps Leo come to understand. I love this relationship. 

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the relationship with Leo and Silvia. They come to understand what love is and what love is not. They grow. We see through their lives what teenagers live. It's what we all forget as we grow in age. Every day is a rollercoaster of emotion as they are simply trying to figure out who they are in this world and what their purpose is. 

In the end Beatrice and Leo have their time together. Although is a short time spent for Leo it is a lifetime lesson. 

"Love doesn't exist to make us happy but to show us how strong our capacity to bear pain is." Words from the Dreamer.

"The pain forces me to close my eyelids, to hide my eyes. I always thought that I would devour the world with my eyes, that like bees they would rest on things and distill their beauty. But my illness is forcing me to close my eyes: because of the pain, because of the exhaustion. Only little by little did I realize that with my eyes closed I could see more, that from beneath my closed eyelids I could see all the beauty of the world, and that beauty is you, God. If only you are making me close my eyes it is so that I pay more attention when I reopen them." Words from Beatrice's journal.

"Love is this too: making room for each other when there isn't enough." Words from Leo.

This was an afternoon read for me. Would I chose it again? I must be honest and say that I wouldn't. But there were parts of this novel that sparked something in my heart. Even closing the last page the thought of simply living each moment. Not allowing fear to keep me from sharing. To share my love with others. To not expect from others what I myself am not willing to give. 

You may pick up this book and see God all through it. I was able to see young people struggling with a God they didn't understand. Why would such things happen if there was a God? Those questions were not just left unanswered. The Dreamer and Beatrice shared. It was a sweet romantic teenager read. Death is scary. Pain is deep. These young people are trying to find themselves in a world that swallows up the weak. 

It was mostly the writing style that I struggled with in this novel. For me if it is considered a faith-based read, I want to see that. Not read it between the lines, but experience God moving in the pages. Yes, to an extent I was able to witness Him moving. But much was missing. Maybe in the translation something was lost. 


This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Alessandro D'Avenia teaches ancient Greek, Latin, and Italian literature at a high school in Milan and is a regular contributor to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, writing on the subjects of literature and education. White as Silence, Red as Song, his first novel, was published in Italy in 2010 as Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue. It sold over a million copies in Italy, has been translated into over twenty languages, and was released as a film in 2013. Alessandro has since published four more books, the latest of which, Every Story Is a Love Story, was published in October 2017.

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