No Steps On The Snow by Daniela Alibrandi
A novel with layers of storytelling, presented in a non-linear way. There are jumps from past to present throughout, and the direction may surprise you.
Publisher’s Description: Francesco, a brilliant middle-aged oncologist signs in a social network while surfing the Internet. He bumps into the profile of the girl he was desperately in love with during High School ‘68, when a horrible homicide happened and the guilty was never to be found. His destiny intertwines in an unpredictable way with that of the girl, now a mature woman. Desperate passions and deep loves of a generation belonging to the past. A thriller that leads to a stunning end.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Wow. This novels provides a multi-dimensional experience. I approach this novel and review as a man fascinated with languages and the hurdles forced by translating not only to another language, but to another culture. What I have to say is said from the perspective of an individual who has lived in another country, visited ten, has spoken a few languages through the course of his life; I write from the perspective of one who is not daunted by the act of translating the meaning of a sentence that despite being presented in English, was obviously written by a non-native speaker. This novel was written by an Italian author and I could tell while reading it that it was well composed – in it’s original language. I am providing a review that does not consider the burdens of translation to be detrimental – rather is setting that aside, and proceeding to review the story itself; and what a story it is.
The Good: I’m not big on romance novels. I am, however, big on psychological thrillers – this book claims to be both. So it was with a somewhat detached interest that I approached a novel that for all intents and purposes begins as a romance. Thankfully it is not a traditional romance – what kept me going was my fascination with the psychology behind the main character – a man named Francesco for whom infidelity is simply his natural state and he embraces it; a man who has mastered deception and yet does not utilize the skills out of malice or spite. He is perhaps a bit of a sociopath but not so far removed as to be unlikable as a protagonist. He loves his wife, he loves his family, and he loves leading his double life. As a man myself I cannot justify his actions, yet I also kept reading. Should infidelity in a main character be a problem for the reader, I recommend they continue to push through.
The ending is worth it.
The Bad: While it is not affecting the rating below, I need to re-stress: the translation into English is not ideal. It reads like it probably flows in a poetic way in it’s original language, but that something is lost in that translation between languages and cultures. I’m able to see past that to the heart of the story, but it may not be easy for some. Beyond that, the first 50% of the novel moves very slowly. It’s interesting in an almost voyeuristic way, peering into the life of Francesco from his early years to his indiscretions as an adult, but not enough to force you to keep turning the pages. It runs the risk of something else shiny popping up and taking your attention away from the book.
The Conclusion: The story is great, but I cannot in good conscience recommend this to an English speaker who is unfamiliar with translating the meaning of phrases between cultures that may have no equivalent. I can however recommend this to people who are in it for the story. I wish I had learned Italian and could read it as originally intended. There is so much I cannot say without ruining the ending, so let me leave it at this: I didn’t see it coming. If you’ve seen the movie Audition by Japanese director Takashi Miike, you know how easy it is to follow the flow of a story and then get hit with a brick in the face as the truth comes out. That happens in No Steps On The Snow, and was well worth my time.
If you like this book…
…you might like the movie Audition by director Takashi Miike. I cannot recommend a book similar to this without giving the ending away.