Family Lexicon — Natalia Ginzburg

What a joy to return to Natalia Ginzburg. I absolutely adored this — an autobiographical novel about Ginzburg’s family.

I laughed a lot: she describes her family, especially her parents, with so much affectionate humour. Her father the would-be tyrant, who rants and raves but never stops anyone from doing exactly as they please. And her mother whose recurring anecdotes form the backbone of the family lexicon.

It’s also very poignant, as the war disrupts the family’s life, with a number of them imprisoned or exiled for being Jewish or antifascists. Ginzburg’s husband himself dies in prison after the occupation ends. However, she largely ignores events of politics or the war, only mentioning them only insofar as they impacted the family. The effect is almost Austenian — it’s a vivid portrait of Jewish-Italian life at the time.


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