Voices from a Time

Written by Silvia Bonucci
Review by Mirella Patzer


With Voices from a Time, winner of the Zerilli-Marimo Prize in Italy, Silvia Bonucci weaves a spellbinding psychological tale that follows a Jewish family from its high standing in society to its complete and utter destruction. One by one, each of the characters reveals the details of the Levi family’s complex life.

The scene is Trieste at the turn of the 20th century. Gemma, socialite wife and irresponsible mother, deeply influences each family member. Her eldest son Marcello’s need for his mother’s love and acceptance leads him into a life-threatening addiction to opium. Sandrin, Gemma’s spurned husband, struggles to manage the declining family fortune. Dolly, the middle child, loves her opium-addicted brother and tries to discover understanding while their lives spiral out of control. The cultural squalor of Italian Fascism takes root, and Titi, the youngest, is swept into the movement. Castaldi, a recovering opium addict himself, meets and falls in love with Gemma, wreaking further pain and havoc on the family.

This novel is written in the first person, with all of the characters revealing their observations, motivations, and rationales for their actions. Bonucci carefully reveals one secret after another, cleverly unfolding this slow tale of a family’s devastation. This is a very readable family saga about a time period and setting most of us know little about.