La Vita Felice (Can You Hear Me?)
Winner of an English PEN Award
Waterstones Thriller of the Month, June 2018
A riveting story about the sins of a father and the innocence of a son.
Sixteen-year-old Elia is a bit of a loner. His father has lost his job and has started acting strangely, taking off in his van for hours upon end, shutting himself away in the garage and writing letters to expose a conspiracy of which he believes he is a victim. Elia tries to understand what is happening; his mother, on the other hand, doesn’t want to accept her husband’s gradual breakdown. That is, until the night after which nothing will ever be the same: the tiny community of Ponte – already scarred by the unsolved murder of a little boy – is turned upside down by the abduction of a girl, who climbed into a van the previous night and then vanished in the middle of the woods.
But for Elia that summer is also marked by his attraction to Anna, a beautiful and isolated woman, his friendship with her son Stefano, and the awakening of his own desires. All this is told by Elia thirty years later as he tries to piece together the past and uncover the mystery of his father’s unravelling, imagining what really took place that night, and what it means to lose oneself. Above all, he tries to answer a question: how, after such a catastrophic event, can you hope to be happy?
Elena Varvello has written a coming-of-age novel different from all others, an elegantly written and atmospheric page-turner about love, fear, and the discovery of ourselves and others.
Praise for La Vita Felice
‘Elia’s transformation is twofold: he is no longer a child, and no longer a son, for he becomes the judge of his elusive father […] I was reminded of La Isola di Arturo [Arthur’s Island by Elsa Morante … and of] the literary narrators – those of Moravia and Bassani – who capture perfectly the abyss of adolescence. More recently, it is only Vinci and Ammaniti who have managed to portray the searing transition from childhood to adulthood. […] The novel drags us along and we read it with our hearts in our mouths, like a noir, except even more tense, though there’s no blood involved.’ – Paolo di Paolo, La Stampa
‘A dark and tragic novel, written and structured with erudition and a rare sense of measure.’ – Nicola Lagioia, author of the 2015 Strega winner Ferocity
‘A beautiful, stark, poignant account of fear, love and loss.’ – Emma Flint, author of Little Deaths
‘A taut, smart, viciously gripping noir about family and the destructive force of unconditional love. It took my breath away and kept me glued to the page until its heart-breaking end: a phenomenal achievement.’ – Kirsty Wark, author of The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle