NYRB Classics July 8, 2014
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review
Thirteen-year-old Agostino is spending the summer at a Tuscan seaside resort with his beautiful widowed mother who takes up with a new companion. Agostino, feeling ignored and unloved, begins hanging around with a group of local young toughs, unable to make sense of his troubled feelings.
Moravia addresses sexuality through the eyes of a thirteen year old young man burgeoning adolescence facing a summer of angst and turmoil. Realizing his mother is also a woman in every sense of the word and meaning, he finds his sexual attraction to her torturous and somewhat confusing. Innocent, uninformed this youth crosses paths with a group of street urchins and learns a worldly, unsavory side of life along with behavior he never knew existed.
Agostino wrestles with the changes and thoughts he is feeling, the sensual stirrings and jealousy towards his mother and her young beau. Desperately trying to squash his overbearing desire for his mother, we ride the wave of emotions puberty’s ugly head arouses along with its awkwardness.
Agostino’s mother’s self-absorption along with her amorous young suitor causes her to ignore the fact her boy is on the precipice of manhood. You have a clear sense she is unware of her son’s recent blatant behavior changes and attitude towards her bur rather she’s in tune with her own sexuality inducing blindness to her sons blossoming curiosity. A frustrating, bold and provocative read, very interesting perspective of sexuality through the eyes of a thirteen year old male.
Moravia brilliantly explores the relationship between a single woman and her teenage son as he embarks on his journey into manhood with little knowledge and even less guidance. Insightful piece of literature as well as heavy subject matter introduced.
“But the intensity of his filial vanity and the turmoil of his infatuation would linger with him for many years to come.”