Saturday, August 23, 2008

Don't Move by Margaret Mazzantini

Intrigued by the premise, I picked this book up while perusing the library shelves for another book by another author. I'm sad to say that I was disappointed by this on-the-fly find.

This novel is a father's first person account of an adulterous relationship, if you could call it that, which he had with a woman that he met and raped when his car broke down on the way to meet his wife at their beach house. If that sounds convoluted, it is. What makes the scenario worse is that this confused (and I say that without pity) rapist and adulterer is confessing these sins to his daughter. What makes that even worse is that his daughter is in the hospital with a serious, life-threatening brain injury after she is struck by a car while riding her moped (the novel is set in Italy). The father, the rapist and adulterer, also happens to be a surgeon, but in true weasel form chooses to opt out of his daughter's surgery and allow his friend to perform the deed himself. On second thought, considering what a louse this guy is, I think that was for the best.

I really can't tell if this author has simply failed miserably at having her readers like or enjoy her main character, or if she is trying to antagonize the reader, daring him or her to keep reading (which I did), despite the mess of a man that she is presenting. The first person narrative certainly doesn't cause the reader to relate or have any sympathy for the character, neither does the infernal confessing. I doubt that a priest could find a soft spot in his heart for this guy.

I don't think I am ruining anything by announcing that the woman with whom the main character has the affair ends up dieing after a botched abortion. The daughter lives. The wife, poor thing, lives. The main character, unfortunately, lives (thus, he's telling the story).

I wish he had died.

This novel reminds me of Ron McLarty's stellar novel, The Memory of Running, only because he does such a better job of taking an average (therefore, flawed) guy and turning him into a character that is endeared to the reader, someone the reader really begins to root for all the way to the end, someone who redeems himself.

Maybe, in fact, Mazzantini's effort is more true to real life.

I hope not.


Amanda said...

Wow, this sounds really super creepy. And not in a good way. The thing that confuses me is that the emphasis of his confession is on the "adultery," at least from what I can tell from your review. I guess for me, a rape far outstrips adultery in this particular case. Adultery usually implies some sort of involvement with the other party, and I don't think rape counts.

Nabokov does a great job at making disgusting first-person narrators at least sympathetic, even if never liked. Maybe Mazzantini was going for a Lolita effect but failed.

Julie said...

This book sounds dreadfully disappointing and creepy like Amanda already said. I don't feel bad in saying that I'll avoid this book. Thanks for warning us, Amber.

Amanda said...

Wait - Jason pointed out to me that the way you worded it in the review, it could be that this guy raped the girl and then they started an adulterous affair. Please tell me that's not what you meant - that's even worse!

Amber said...

Yes, indeed, there is an affair carried on after the rape. The whole thing is startling and confusing. It leaves you going, "Wait, did he just rape her?" Then he goes back again, and again, and again until it becomes apparent that they are having some sort of relationship.
Somebody has, of course, made a movie of it. Here's part of a review from

A very compelling movie, 31 October 2004

Author: john-575 from Melbourne, Australia

"Don't Look Now" is a riveting story of a surgeon sitting in the waiting room of a hospital where he works with his 15 yo daughter and only child seriously injured fighting for her life in the operating room. Whilst waiting he recounts the crucial moments in his life and mainly his sordid and violent relationship with Cruz, a derelict young woman and the interplay and very much parallel life with his wife, a successful journalist played by Claudia Gerini who looks very much like an Italian Diane Lane.. beautiful hair, classical looks.

The contrast between his married homelife and Cruz situation is black and white. His house overlooks a beautiful beach, Cruz's is in a dusty hellhole in the middle of a construction site.

This film makes perfect use of flashbacks something I normally detest particularly ones that move in reverse order like Momento or the French Film "Irreversible"

The rape scene between Cruz and Castellitto is much briefer than that in "Irreversible" but just as uncomfortable to watch.

I couldn't quite work out the attraction between Cruz's and Castellitto's characters as there was no gentleness in his approach at first (it was rape) but somehow he falls in love with her.

But there is a lot to enjoy here and a lot to think about afterwards. It is the sort of movie that you should see once and could see a number of times to get all the angles.

For Cruz this could perhaps be compared to Halle Berry's performance in Monsters Ball or Charlene Theron's in Monster. But unlike these other two films, Cruz's character is only one of the 3 or 4 varied relationships Castellitto's character has in the film. These relationships and how they interplay is why it is such an interesting movie.

Amanda said...

That's disgusting. And it seems to imply that women liked to be raped. I mean, come on - who wants to have an affair with their rapist? I mean, I can see people suffering from mental issues when their kidnapper repeatedly rapes them, because they dont' really LIKE it, they just have to COPE, but seriously, this book sounds like the ultimate insult.

hamilcar barca said...

what amazes me here is that the author is female. i even wiki'd her to make sure it wasn't a "reverse George Eliot" sort of thing.

i might expect some out-of-touch-with-reality guy to write about his rape/affair fantasy. but to have a woman pen something like that just staggers my mind.

Unknown said...

Mr Barca, I have two words for you:



Seriously. Try the Fountainhead sometime. Or don't. You know...

hamilcar barca said...

sorry, the few reviews i've read about her stuff have not been kind. and i have no desire to find out who John Galt is.

Amber said...

It's odd because, I actually found myself feeling not just sympathy but also empathy toward the raped woman, simply because of my own vulnerability and weakness. It served as a warning to me as to what can result if you live a life of submission. Maybe the author was trying, in some backwards way, to make a feminist comment against what seems to be women's tendency to accept abuse from the world and everyone in it? Maybe the point was for us to hate the narrator. I don't know. As much outrage as I have when others are treated so horribly, even in fiction, I do tend to take too much crap in my own life. Maybe this novel is a lesson to be learned.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I've been joking about this, and I certainly haven't read the book. But the more I think about it, I'd have to tentatively agree with Amber. There is something about someone taking something from you, that makes you desperate to have it restored. I can think of a couple ways the situation would be plausible. None of them are good, and none reflect terribly well on either of the parties. But there have been times in my life, I can say, when I was starved for human contact, that I probably would have accepted a terrible, ugly, hideous contact, if it was the path of least resistance. I know this is a touchy question, and I, believe me, do not mean to imply that women ever 'want it' when they're raped - that's an ugly old lie that is best left buried, as it is now. But I do know that, at least for me, being broken badly by something can make me cling harder to it, simply because I don't know what else to do. I don't know, that's so ugly when I say it, I hate to even express it, but... I think it makes the original rape worse, not better, if that's any comfort. It's not a 'rape fantasy', it's more like... when someone is starving, you can put them on a stage, throw rotten food at them, and laugh with a crowd of mockers, while they sit there on stage devouring whatever they can stomach of it. And maybe you'll tell yourself you were kind for feeding them, but in the end you've damaged them more than if you just let them starve.

Amanda said...

I haven't read the book, but from the description, I just don't get that vibe. I don't know. I've never been raped. I've never known anyone that was raped by a stranger (that I know of, at least). It just seems to me to be unfathomable for a rape victim to want her attacker to come back. Maybe I've seen too many SVU episodes or something. One way or another, though, it sounds from the review like the author doesn't pull the scenario off well.