Review | The NYRB Book Club April 2017 | Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg and translated by Jenny McPhee

One of the bookish subscription boxes I’ll be reviewing this year doesn’t actually involve a box, so I guess it’s just a bookish subscription. I’m talking about the New York Review Books Book Club.

The deal I signed up for included 12 books (one each month, you know) as well as a yearly subscription to The Paris Review (four copies in total). You can read my reviews of the books in my NYRB subscriptions so far and reviews of the Paris Review.

Hey y’all, I complained last month that all the books sent out so far had been my men and wouldn’t you know this month they sent out a book by a woman! I’m sure they heard me, found a book, and hurried up to publish it just to please me, right? Definitely.

Family Lexicon cover.jpgThe book in question is Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg and translated from Italian by Jenny McPhee. The original printing of this short gem won the 1963 Strega Prize (whatever that is) and the reissuing by NYRB brings a new translator to the game.

Described as both a novel and memoir at the same time, the protagonist is Natalia herself, who is the youngest of five children who grow up in a particularly interesting and vivacious Italian family. Though lexicon is right in the title, I was surprised and charmed to see how the author really did incorporate the idea of her family having its own lexicon into her diggings into the foundation of her family.

She analyzed each word they all collectively used frequently, each off-the-wall saying, and brought a richness to what could have otherwise been a fairly run of the mill family melodrama.

Rating: 8/10 

Recommended for: Fans of Italian literature; fans of language; fans of family histories / dramas.

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace testYes.

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Nope, nope, yep, yep.

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