Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator)

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Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator)

Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Can You Hear Me? is a tender, heart breaking coming of age story set over the course of a sweltering Italian summer. Dealing with love, fear and betrayal, this is a tightly paced noir sure to thrill, entice and devour you.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Two Roads
ISBN: 978-1473654877

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In 1978, in a small town in Northern Italy Elia Furenti is sixteen and troubled. His mundanely stable, loving and ordered life is rocked by the murder of a young boy and the disappearance of a young woman, who vanishes into the woods. As Elia struggles to make sense of his shifting relationship with his increasingly erratic and unpredictable father, he begins to question what role this volatile man may play in these acts of senseless violence. Into this steps Anna, the mother of Elia's friend, a woman bowed under the strain of life and haunted by her choices. As the heat of summer intensifies, so does Elia's certainty that something is desperately wrong in his home. Drawn, seemingly inevitably, to the mysteriously sensual and sad Anna, Elia feels the ground start to shift under his feet, to feel the wind whipping his face from the cliff edge of adolescence and the unavoidable pull of adulthood.

Can You Hear Me? is not a faint hearted book. Elena Varvello plays with some big themes here; fear, love and loss are prominent and sketched in heart aching relief. The story is a tense exploration of the mysteries of the human heart, the weight of paranoia and the often destructive nature of love and blind devotion. Told from Elia's perspective, the story follows his struggle to deal with his father's frightening transformation and his imagined horror at the actions of a man capable of doing the unthinkable. Varvello's writing is so redolent and vivid that the reader can almost feel the sweltering heat of summer in Italy, the intense desire between Elia and Anna and the individual anguish and grief of all characters here. This is not a light hearted summer read but rather an intensely brilliant noir, tightly paced but with the wistful quality of a midsummer daydream. The characters are vibrant, relatable and powerfully realised and the story moves at breath taking pace.

This is a beautiful coming of age story, a meditation on the nature of adulthood and a sizzling reminder of the turmoil of adolescence. Varvello has expertly captured the exquisite torture of first time lust and the agony of betrayal. The intensely personal nature of the story becomes clear when Varvello discloses that she wrote the book as a way of exorcising her own difficult relationship with her father, himself a sufferer of mental illness, in an act of letting go of her own past. This adds another level of poignant tenderness to this already heart wrenching tale and it adds another layer of humanity to Varvello's writing. Her style is evocative, provocative and tender and draws the reader into the world of Elia, his family and the small town community shaken by tragedy. Alex Valente has adoringly translated Varvello's work and the partnership between them is a wonderful example of how loving translation can bring powerful writing to readers across the world. If you like your fiction dark and deep, your characters strikingly real and are prepared to have your heart lovingly shattered then this is the book for you.

For another bittersweet coming of age story try The Fields by Kevin Maher.

Buy Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator) at

Buy Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello and Alex Valente (translator) at


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