Book review: Too many stories, not enough time

Tonight Is Already Tomorrow cover
Courtesy of Europa Editions

“Tonight is Already Tomorrow”

Lia Levi; translated by Clarissa Botsford

Europa Editions

“Tonight is Already Tomorrow” is written by a prominent Italian novelist about a mid-century child prodigy. If that sounds a bit like one of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, I’ll admit that my interest in Ferrante led me to this new Europa novel by Lia Levi.

But unlike Ferrante’s popular books, Levi’s “Tonight is Already Tomorrow” is kind of a drag.

The writer’s powers of description are impeccable, even in translation, and her sense of the dramatic is on full display in her tale of a Genoan Jewish family caught up in the gears of Italy’s fascist turn. But confusion reigns in this short novel, which introduces characters and plot lines that are quickly dropped, as if Levi, overflowing with ideas, had trouble deciding which to include. In trying to take a bite out of every cake, “Tonight is Already Tomorrow” ends up without a distinctive flavor.

At times, Levi appears most interested in the character of Alessandro, the brilliant little boy set to change the fortunes of the Jewish Rimon family. In the chapters about him, you can see the outline of an interesting book, with grand machinations of history and familial strife seen through the eyes of a precocious little boy. But Levi finds so many other characters to inhabit that we don’t spend as much time with Alessandro as we’d like. In such a short book, far too much real estate is occupied by far-flung cousins and other minor characters.

There are ideas for five interesting novels in “Tonight
is Already Tomorrow.” Unfortunately, Levi didn’t end up
with one.

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