Who says and who is silent by Chiara Valerio: Serena Dandini’s review

Serena Dandini (photo by Gianmarco Chieregato).

«SCauri and Rome are only one hundred and forty kilometers apart” he reminds us Chiara Valerio in his latest novel, or perhaps we should call it crime fiction, or noir, or all of these things together.

AND although the distance is small, it can sometimes seem like that between the Earth and the Moon. It is always a question of point of view, of lack of knowledge or more often of the laziness of the eye of the beholder who does not know how to observe.

While Lea Russo, the protagonist of Who says and who is silent (Sellerio), a lawyer from Scauri with a husband she loves and two little girls who are growing up under the affectionate and, as always, worried eye of their parents.

But, at sudden and apparently mysterious death of her friend Vittoriawhat was – as they say – a quiet provincial life lights up with new colors and many perplexities.

Reading ideas: 7 of the most read books of 2023

Had Vittoria come to live in Scauri in the 1970s, together with a friend? Or maybe she was a lover?! With her oriental clothes and a certain propensity for a free life, she had run the risk of being branded with a scarlet letter by provincial morality and instead, at the time, no one had asked too many questions. When originality is imported and, above all, is economically self-sufficient it is accepted, and considered a picturesque element that enriches the landscape.

“Who says and who is silent” by Chiara Valerio (Sellerio),

There strange death by drowning in a bathtub of Vittoria – who, among other things, was an expert swimmer – forces Lea to ask herself questions that, perhaps guiltily, she had never asked herself and pushes her to investigate the past of her missing friend because she doesn’t accept the absurdity of her end.

As always when we begin to investigate the lives of others, we cannot help but question our own in a game of mirror reflections that help us, if not to understand, at least to become familiar with the most intimate and removed aspects of our experience.

However, there is another protagonist who reigns over the story and makes this book one of Valerio’s happiest illuminations, and is Scauri, the town where the author was bornwhich is not just the landscape backdrop in which the story is set, but a point of view, a powerful engine that animates the narrative as only loved and recovered roots can do.

It is the “decomposed grace” of the places that guides us in this investigation and makes us fall in love with its characters. However, Who says and who is silent It is above all a book about love, carnal and spiritual love, the powerful love of friendshipbecause as Dante taught us it is “love that moves the sun and the other stars”.

All articles by Serena Dandini.