Inside an apartment building on the outskirts of Milan, the working-class residents gossip, quarrel, and conspire against each other. Viewed through the eyes of Chino, an impressionable thirteen-year-old boy whose mother is the building’s doorwoman, the world contained within these walls is tiny, hypocritical, and mean-spirited: a constant struggle.
A new resident, Amelia Lynd, moves in and quickly becomes an unlikely companion to Chino. Ms. Lynd—an elderly, erudite British woman—nurtures his taste in literature, introduces him to the life of the mind, and offers a counterpoint to the only version of reality he’s known. On one level, Lost Words is an engrossing coming-of-age tale set in the ’70s, when Italy was going through tumultuous social changes, and on another, it is a powerful meditation on language, literature, and culture.
In Gardini’s novel, with its generous call to greater interpersonal understanding, one answer seems to be: everywhere, hiding unspoken, waiting.
— Harvard Review
Gardini introduces the wider social unrest subtly, seeing things from the perspective of an insider and an outsider at once.
— Times Literary Supplement
What do you call it when a novel in translation that is all about the problems of reading in translation? Ironic? Perverse? Necessary? Whatever the answer, Michael F. Moore’s English rendering is lucid and elegant.
— Christine Smallwood, Harper's
Gardini crafts an amusing, entertaining read.
— Publishers Weekly
A gentle, bittersweet, tragicomic rite-of-passage novel translated into lively English by Moore.
A combative novel, a multilayered piece of fiction, a triumphant narrative mechanism.
— Matteo Giancotti, Corriere Della Sera
Gardini’s language is forceful and refined.
— Silvia Mazzocchi, La Repubblica
Combining elements of comedy and tragedy, Gardini’s novel is a call on today’s Italy to know its own language, to speak with substance, and to reconsider the relationship between words and meaning—a relationship broken by mass culture. As Leopardi declares, there is in words an exhortation to probe the depths of truth—a calling to believe that culture and education can still save us.