Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake

Welcome to LA? Nineties' Hollywood gets an Italian makeover in this poignant and ruefully funny coming-of-age novel featuring a teenage girl who's on shaky ground in more ways than one.Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippieish filmmaker parents and...

Title:Things That Happened Before the Earthquake
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0385542275
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:320 pages

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake Reviews

  • Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:

    This is a novel to add to your reading list- forthcoming

    “How could my father become rich and famous if he surrounded himself with cheapness?”

    The beauty of this novel is that Eugenia and her family are foreigners with stars in there eyes, ready to have success in America as filmmakers. The stars act as blinders to the reality of their situation and forges trust in people that aren’t quite who they say they are. That her parents are ‘sort of hippi

    via my blog:

    This is a novel to add to your reading list- forthcoming

    “How could my father become rich and famous if he surrounded himself with cheapness?”

    The beauty of this novel is that Eugenia and her family are foreigners with stars in there eyes, ready to have success in America as filmmakers. The stars act as blinders to the reality of their situation and forges trust in people that aren’t quite who they say they are. That her parents are ‘sort of hippies’ is evident in the openness of the household, not always exposing their kids to the best people in order to make their film. Eugenia is not your typical American kid, and being torn from her homeland Italy and plopped down in San Fernando Valley trying to fit in with dangerous kids in her public school isn’t the Hollywood life she imagined. Before she finds friendship with Henry, she has secret encounters with Arash, a Persian student who ‘sort of’ protects her. The fact she is warned against telling anyone about their time together exposes the hungry desperation Eugenia feels at school, she goes along with it welcoming the sexual trysts. But in a place where gangs face off, and boys prove themselves anytime someone ‘steps up’ something tragic is bound to happen. When tragedy strikes, she becomes enthralled with Deva- a young girl truly living a hippy existence with her father and brother. Deva is a child of communes and music, Eugenia falls in love with every cell of her being, thrown off by Deva’s strange bond with her controlling father. Forced to work on his music, the lines between love and abuse blur and Eugenia isn’t really sure what she knows or understands about Deva. While her own parents struggle to make a film, failing miserably, she is far more invested in becoming a part of Deva’s world.

    In part two, Eugenia and her brother return home to the most isolated island of the Aeolian archipelago for a visit, while their parents try to recover from the difficulties of their first year in California. This was my favorite part of the entire novel, though there is brutality, cruelty in the relationship between the island’s handyman Santino and his wife Rosalia. The carefree nudity, the ‘rough island living’ made me feel like I was there. The friendship Eugenia strikes up with Rosalia by bringing her newfound “Americanism” into their household is a catalyst for danger and violence. Too, there is charm about the island, the descriptions of the land and water, and the locals set a gorgeous mood. You could almost smell the salty air and feel the cool water. It’s a strange see saw effect, because the reader is lulled by the ocean and horrified with the simmering tensions. It feels like another novel, and it follows because going from Italy to California may as well be another life entirely. Part Two serves as a look at the changes taking place within Eugenia, you never return home the same as when you left. Her perception of her own culture changes after a short time in America.

    Every character has issues, whether of the physical or emotional sort. There are a lot of awkward moments of hungry, humiliating desperation to either fit in or be loved. Eugenia’s parent’s dream seems to be sinking the family, and Eugenia is lost on the chaos of the confusion, coming of age, trying to figure out who she is, how to love, what future she longs for without much guidance. Being that her family chooses to come to America and make their film after the violent riots in Los Angeles gives a strange effect to the story. There is a lot happening here, normally it would make for a messy novel but instead it contributes to the confusion Eugenia feels adjusting to her life in America. They are all on shaky ground before the big earthquake. When the quake finally occurs the question is, what can Eugenia take from the rubble of her life? This was really good, it’s more than just an Italian family taking on Hollywood. It’s a desperate coming of age with sexual complications. Add this to your reading list, it won’t be available until August.

    Publication Date: August 15, 2017

    Doubleday Books

  • Navidad Thelamour

    Chiara Barzini’s

    was a novel built on a plausible premise, an exploration of assimilation into American culture through the eyes of an Italian teenager coming of age. I neither loved nor hated this novel, but I could see where the author was trying to go, and there did exist moments where I appreciated the bravery of her writing.

    Eugenia’s parents come to the U.S. with stars in their eyes, hoping to make it big as filmmakers in L.A. They’re free-spirite

    Chiara Barzini’s

    was a novel built on a plausible premise, an exploration of assimilation into American culture through the eyes of an Italian teenager coming of age. I neither loved nor hated this novel, but I could see where the author was trying to go, and there did exist moments where I appreciated the bravery of her writing.

    Eugenia’s parents come to the U.S. with stars in their eyes, hoping to make it big as filmmakers in L.A. They’re free-spirited in a truly European way, being shocked at the citations they receive for sunbathing topless on the beach and bewildered by things like private healthcare. They buy a Cadillac to fit in and change their wardrobe upon arrival, not wanting to be typecast as Italian gringos, wanting to fit in and instantly conform into their new surroundings.

    Eugenia, is a typical teenager in a lot of ways. Aside from the fact that she has to worry about whether or not she’ll be threatened with deportation in American customs at the airport—and the fact that L.A. natives keep confusing her Italian heritage with French, which acutely annoys her—she searches for her own identity in much the same way as many teenage girls raised in the dazzling lights of a big city. She’s needy, clingy to people who often have little interest in her, exploring her surroundings and individuality through her newfound sexuality, the occasional recreational drug and a pretty consistent series of adventures brought on by risky, naïve behavior. She’s hungry for positive attention, desperate to find herself and fit in, from the “pump up” sneakers she thought would be cool to wear her first day of school (the other girls, she finds, have already graduated to wearing heels) to the slew of sexual trysts and arguably degrading positions she finds herself in. There are times when I questioned whether Eugenia was fearless or stupid, brave or simply naïve—but that is what coming of age is, isn’t it? A combination of all these things in its own right. Several of the scenes came off as memories of my own high-school experiences, of the other students around me all struggling to fit in and claim our places in the hierarchy that exists in every American school. Still, there were times where some of the scenes came off as uncomfortable and strange to me—but those were the moments when Barzini’s own fearlessness as a writer was on full display.

    A key note to consider about this novel is that

    is exactly what this book felt like: things that happened.

    The plot was pretty loose, and, for the most part, simply read like a series of events—misadventures if you will—that happened to a teenage girl after moving from her native Rome to the scorching Los Angeles, California, just after the riots brought on by the beating of Rodney King in ’92. With that in mind, the setting was rich, the landscape described down to the detail so that you could feel the grit in the Valley air, smell the salt of the sea on the shores of Italy. This novel was punctuated by pop culture events, like milestones that moved the story along on a timeline. The earthquake of 94’, the election of Silvo Berlusconi, O.J. Simpson and the white Bronco, gun to his head. It’s all seen through the eyes of Eugenia, commented on by a voice still trying to find itself. And that did have its own appeal, for sure.

    Here you’ll find a slow read driven by finding oneself in the midst of chaos, rather than being heavily driven by plotting, irony, or plot twists. That will appeal to a lot of readers. It was a book that read at a lulling pace but that still had its share of shocking, difficult and awkward moments that pierced through the lull. The characters were flawed in a way that seemed real, authentic, unaffected and devoid of pretenses, and for that readers can be grateful, because that can be hard to find. Fiction is littered with unthought-out stereotypes masquerading as engaging characters, but you won’t find a graveyard of those typecast bones here.

    had a sort of hippie-ish soul to it, exploring the crevices of Italian culture and how they made assimilation into American society both difficult and noteworthy at the same time. Barzini was at times bold in her depictions of what unaffected thinking sounds like, what authentic living looks like, from “making out” with your grandmother, to rave parties in the middle of the desert to an inside glimpse of commune life. And, the cover art is

    ! (5 stars for that!) But, the slowness of the read couldn’t always hold my attention, and the loose plotting failed to grab me the way I wanted to be held by this story within these pages. For that, I award a solid 3 stars. ***

    * I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Doubleday, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

    **To see more reviews, go to The Navi Review at

    , and follow the blog on Twitter @thenavireview

  • Irena

    It's too early for me to review and rate this book, since it's coming out in August.

    But I wouldn't be me if I wouldn't tell you just a few, brief things.

    First of all: although the main character of this novel is a teenager (16 to 17 through the period that the story covers) this is not a ya book.

    I would classify it as general fiction set in 90's.

    The earthquake the title is references is the one that happened in 1994 in L.A.

    This book has only 320 pages but it reads slowly. The reason - I blame th

    It's too early for me to review and rate this book, since it's coming out in August.

    But I wouldn't be me if I wouldn't tell you just a few, brief things.

    First of all: although the main character of this novel is a teenager (16 to 17 through the period that the story covers) this is not a ya book.

    I would classify it as general fiction set in 90's.

    The earthquake the title is references is the one that happened in 1994 in L.A.

    This book has only 320 pages but it reads slowly. The reason - I blame the writing style that is full of tells and has so little shows, and even less conversations.

    While reading I felt uncomfortable more then few times:

    1. The way the main character Eugenia lost her virginity made me feel nervous because, in my opinion, she was sexually assaulted, even though she didn't want to admit it to herself

    2. Eugenia's prayers to Holy Mary where she talked about sex

    3. Scenes with strong animal abuse were the worst to read about (but they had their meaning in this story).

    Overall, a good, solid coming of age story that talks about finding a safe place and ourselves along the way, set 1990s when human life (in my humble opinion) was at it's best.

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