The Book of Hidden Things
The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri, had been on my list before. The cover is beautiful, and I'm pretty sure that's why I had added it in the first place.
Falling in love with book covers is why my TBR list is so impossibly long. What got me to finally read it, is that it was the February/March pick for the Book Fairies Book Club! You can join via Goodreads, here.
I was hoping to do a post about being a book fairy before this post, but things don't always go in the order we plan, am I right?
The Book of Hidden Things is the first of Francesco Dimitri's books to be translated to English. He is an Italian author who has written both fiction and non fiction. This book is about four old school friends who have a pact: they will meet on the same day, at the same place, in their hometown, every year, no excuses. But, this year, Art, who insisted on this pact, doesn't show up. Concern floods the remaining group of friends, and we learn that there has always been something mysterious about Art, even since they were children.
I ripped through this book in about four days. Mind you, I am a sucker for a book set in the Italian countryside. Those kinds of books just take me somewhere absolutely dreamy, and I find myself slightly more relaxed just by visualizing it all. But location aside, I couldn't really put it down, even when parts of it made my stomach churn.
A friend has gone missing, and there is intrigue around their shared youth, as we find that this isn't the first time Art, the eccentric, profound, march-to-the-beat-of-his-own-drum intellectual, has gone missing. In fact, none of the other friends in their quartet still knows what happened the first time Art went missing. Instead of thinking, oh this is just a flaky or quirky friend, you get drawn into the story further. Will Art be found? Will the boys finally find out what happened the first time he went missing, all those years ago? Is this related to the local mafia? If it is, someone could get killed! Or already have been killed! If it isn't, what else could have happened to him?
In my need to know I sprinted through this book, chapter after chapter. It did help that the chapters were pretty short. The book also switches perspectives between all of the guys, Fabio, Mauro, and Tony (who is my absolute favorite, by the way). Personally, I don't mind this, but I have friends who hate when point of view switches back and forth. If that's not something you enjoy, this may not be the book for you.
You must be thinking, wow! You finished it so quickly, it must have been a great book!
I wouldn't quite say that....
I actually hated most of the characters in the book, except Tony, as mentioned above. Half of the main characters were immature, or selfish, or both. Despite them having this pact for years and being grown adults with careers, I felt like I was reading the thoughts of high school boys. Not always, but often. Even Art, who is portrayed as this guy who always just got it, or just understood so much about the world, seemed to, in reality, be someone controlled by sexual desire more than anything else. I'm not one to police someone else's sexuality, but it wasn't what I was expecting, and it made me a bit put off the extent to which sex was a driving factor for these guys, and the way they would talk about women.
Also, without any spoilers, I will say that I did not like the ending. It felt a bit like the author just ended it. There were many loose ends that I felt weren't neatly tied up. I understand, that doesn't always have to be the case, but I think there really could have been more. It almost felt like, Dimitri was about to hit the required word count, so he just wrapped it up.
Was this a fun story? Yes.
Did it have the potential to be better? Definitely.
I think the characters could have been more likable. I felt so strongly about not liking most of these characters. Maybe their paths weren't explored quite enough. Maybe with the switching back and forth, you don't really get to connect with each of them as much. But so many of them just seemed like awful people. I loved Tony, I felt for Mauro, and I hated Fabio and Art.
I also do think the ending could have been more of an ending. There was so much in this book about the extent to which people will go for gratification, but it seemed to only come in the second half of the book, all at once, and then it kind of got dropped like a hot potato.
Ultimately, I think this was a good book in the way that the story is interesting, and it does reel you in. But I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite books, and it doesn't help that I didn't like most of the characters. In fact the ones that I did like, I might have just pitied.
If you're looking for a roller coaster ride, and a quick read, this is the book for you. If you're looking for likable characters and closure, you might want to pass.
Have you read it? Do you plan to? Let me know what you think!