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First Fiction Friday: Love and Rain
Radical movements in Rome and Montreal are contrasted in Love and Rain (Guernica Editions), the gripping debut historical novel from Carmela Circelli. Learn more about why your next read should be this cinematic, sweeping story below.
Love and Rain (Guernica Editions, 2023)
Carmela Circelli was born in Southern Italy and grew up in Montreal. She has been teaching on contract for the Philosophy Department at York University for 30 years, and also works as a psychotherapist in private practice in Toronto. In 2014, Quattro Books published her philosophical memoir Sweet Nothing: An Elemental case for Taking out Time. Love and Rain is her debut novel.
Why you need to read this now:
Love and Rain by Italian-Canadian author Carmela Circelli is a gentle, thoughtful read, despite the fact the novel delves into the darkness of human nature. It’s a book that deftly and beautifully explores the cost of ideological devotion using the FLQ movement in Quebec and the Red Brigades in Italy in the 1970s—a topic as relevant now as ever. What happens when we are more dedicated to an idea than people, even the people we love? What happens to our humanity? Our ability to live with ourselves in peace?
Throughout the course of the novel, Circelli navigates these questions through the lives of two sisters born to Italian immigrants and living in Montreal. One sister is driven by feelings of loneliness and not belonging into extreme political ideology. The other is born with the gift of a physical beauty, a mesmerising singing voice and a meek disposition that spares her the wrath of her abusive father—a wrath the other sister is not spared. However, while her meekness saves her from her father’s anger, it leads her into a predictably doomed romance and a secret that leaves her shattered. After the death of their father, the sisters move with their equally but differently damaged mother back to Italy, where one sister throws herself behind a political movement she does not fully understand, and the other sister descends into silence. What follows is an absorbing story, told in Circelli’s lilting and moody lyricism, which reflects the tumultuous lives of three generations of women.
Having worked as a psychotherapist for 20 years, Circelli’s writing resounds with the depth and immediacy of the human psyche, and shows, with painful clarity, how we flail and suffer in times of civil unrest. Reading this book at this point in history would be illuminating and thought-provoking. Reading it now feels portentous. This story has the effect of forcing us to confront our relationship with our own political ideologies and asks to what extent they are helping us, and to what extent they may be robbing us of not only our own humanity, but our ability to recognize the humanity of others.
X + Y:
Love and Rain contains the sweeping romantic nostalgia of the film adaptation of The English Patient and the political nuance of In the Name of the Father.