Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BOOK: The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

"I too have lived many years for ideals which I would never be able to explain to myself; but I do something entirely good. I live on trees."

This was an interesting book. I borrowed it from the library, looking for an Italian book, and even though I'd already read The Shape of Water, I find it really difficult to not read a library book, especially with a due date looming. It's the story of a Baron in late 1700s Italy who decides to live in the trees, never touching the ground again. It was a cute story, easy to read, and just follows the life of the Baron from age 12 when he goes up until he dies, some fifty years later.

The point of view is from the younger brother, and this caused some problems for me. Because he is just observing, we never get a feel for the Baron's feelings, or rationale for living as he does. There must have been a reason, and I know that the 'age of reason' and Voltaire had something to do with it. ( The Baron read a lot of philosophy and corresponded with great minds of the late 18th century) I just never felt, for example, that the great romance between the Baron and Viola was fully developed, because it was just observed. As well, the brother has to put his judgement on situations and I never felt like I understood the Baron at all.

"Rambunctous and impetuous youth led Cosimo into the trees (he was only twelve when he took to the branches), but his ideals, once established, kept him there the rest of his life. All of us make descions in our youth that we either follow through with or abandon. Cosimo never abandoned his decision, for good or ill."

The purpose of the Reading Across Borders was to expand perspective and read different books, which for me means not North American novels or British mysteries. I certainly feel that I am accomplishing this, and the fact that I liked this book, even thoughit smacks of real literature and I still enjoyed it, means my horizons are being broadened. But I'm not ready to climb up some trees.