What’s up with the great Italian writers that emerge lately? First, it was Paolo Giordano with his amazing novel The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Now, the next young and charismatic writer is on his way to enchant the hearts and minds of the passionate readers. I am not exaggerating even a bit – Alessandro d’Avenia’s White as Milk, Red as Blood (the original Italian title is Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue is childly simple but highly philosophical and influential. You would miss a lot if this novel is not in your library.
Alessandro d’Avenia is an Italian teacher of Classical Languages. His debut novel, understandably, is devoted to the problems that all growing up teenagers face – boring school, mean teachers, unrequited love, arguments with friends, rivalry. Leo is a 16-years old boy, who loves his guitar, his football team,his motorbike, music, and Beatrice. When Beatrice gets sick from leucemia, Leo is forced to grow up very quickly. He starts questioning the meaning of life and the importance of dreams. His teacher, whom he calls the Dreamer, helps him discover his dreams by asking the right questions. The novel tracks Leo’s development from a small, naive, and pretentious little boy to a more mature, independent, and understanding individual. His relationship with his family, his best friend Silvia, and even his teachers evolve reflecting the dramatic change in his character. Leo stays with Beatrice throughout her sickness, seeing her slowly fade away and finally deciding to live not only for himself, but for her as well.
White as Milk, Red as Blood refers to the way the boy perceives his beloved. In the beginning, Leo is afraid from the white color; he connects it to loneliness, void, and lack of purpose. Red, on the other hand, is the color of love, passion, and dreams. Throughout the novel Leo stops fearing everything that is white; he understands the complexity and unfairness of life; he understand he has to live for the moment and to appreciate each and every one of his relationships for the way they are.
The novel is very easy to read; it is not an exaggeration to say that it reads by itself. Do not be fooled by the simple language, because the ideas the author implies are highly philosophical. D’Avania uses a trivial, very recognizable story but he manages to turn it into a novel that cannot leave the reader indifferent. What I absolutely adored is his unique style; the author talks about a simple thing as riding the motorbike or buying shoes; yet at the next moment he strikes the reader with a provocative question about the meaning of life. I literally felt that unconsciously kept underestimating the novel because of the simplicity of the plot and the language. In a minute, though I started re-reading some passages, trying to understand and interpret them; trying to relate them to my life and to extract the moral.
It took me exactly two days to read White as Milk, Red as Blood. Once I put my hands on it, I just couldn’t let go. And now it is finished, I feel a little nostalgie for each and everyone of the characters. Because I loved seeing them change and grow – first doubt life and God, then question morality and justice, and finally accept life for the way it is – white, red, silver, black, blue – whatever you want to see it.