The End by Salvatore Scibona

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The End by Salvatore Scibona

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Maurizio Valeri
Reviewed by Maurizio Valeri
Summary: An immigrant tale set in the 1950s told from six different perspectives.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: November 2010
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
ISBN: 978-0224091497

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Salvatore Scibona is one of a new breed of American authors who in his first book has decided to take on the great American literary novel. Has he succeeded?

The End is a novel that while being a part of a modern burgeoning literary movement very much looks back at the great American literature tradition of the last century. In Scibona's beautifully crafted prose we see glimpses of Saul Bellow, the vibrancy of Kerouac and the sensibilities of Updike, a heady mix to be sure.

The story is set on a single day in 1953 and involves the lives of six disparate characters in an Ohio carnival crowd. Drawing on his own experiences of being second generation Italian American immigrant family, Scibona explores the immigrant experience using this snapshot in the lives of these six Italian Americans. This is a story of how modern America came to be at a time where the country was coming out of the Second World War and was now ready to take its place as the most powerful nation in the world. The country's wealth was built upon the waves of immigrants that fled the old world in search of a new future. In the 50's their American dream was coming true as they managed to escape the confines of their urban ghettos and join the affluent burgeoning middle class. With ambition and desire there can also be desperation and failure and the story also highlights this aspect of the American dream. In the racially divided district of Elephant Park during the yearly catholic carnival one event brings deep seated tensions to the fore and leads to tragic consequences.

This is not an easy novel to read. The prose is at times poetic and the characters are complex and multifaceted, in addition the way the story is told from six different perspectives also adds to the depth and texture of the narrative.

The story starts with Rocco a baker who for thirty years has strived to make a life for himself and his family in his new adopted home. Making many sacrifices and suffering many setbacks Rocco's life changes when he receives the news that his son Mimmo has died in a POW camp in North Korea. Scibona uses characters like Rocco and Costanza the elderly widow to jump backwards and forwards through flashbacks and recollections uncovering the their experience of settling in a strange land. Through these people, through the eyes of these willing immigrants and their offspring he examines the soul of America, both the good and the bad.

Some of the descriptive passages in this book are beautifully crafted and as with all true literary novels a large part of the pleasure of this book is for the reader to immerse himself in the craftsmanship and the imagery or the prose.

Scibona is particularly adept at brining the characters to life through their speech; he provides them with an authentic immigrant voice by the use of imperfect English and colourful use of phrases that reveals their foreign roots. The staging of the story in one day leads to comparisons with Joyce's Ulysses, although I'm not sure such lofty comparisons are valid whether by design or accident Scibona has managed to instil a certain lyricism in his prose that was found in Joyce's great work.

So going back to the original question I asked, has Scibona succeeded in writing his version of the great American novel? Yes he has! Considering this is also his debut novel I feel we can expect much more from this young and talented writer.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestions: The Visible World by Mark Slouka, Love Marriage by V V Ganeshananthan and The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno

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Buy The End by Salvatore Scibona at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The End by Salvatore Scibona at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The End by Salvatore Scibona at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The End by Salvatore Scibona at Amazon.com.

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