I really enjoyed reading both Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca so I was looking forward to reading another book by Melina Marchetta. Looking for Alibrandi was her debut novel and I believe it was made into a movie in Australia. I’m interested in watching that movie but I don’t know how I’ll be able to get a copy from here. Has anyone watched that movie? Please let me know if it’s any good. 🙂
Here’s the summary from Melina Marchetta’s website:
“Eat, Jozzie, eat. Oh, Jozzie, Jozzie. Look at your hair. Why, Jozzie? Why can you not look tidy?”
My grandmother says that to me every afternoon. She says it with a painful cry in her voice as if she is dying. I’m not sure if anyone has ever died of the fact that their granddaughter looks untidy, but I’m sure my grandmother will one day because she’ll strain her voice so much she’ll choke.
For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mum, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic private girls’ school where the nuns couldn’t be any stricter. But that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into Josie’s life, including her father!
Caught between the old-world values of her Italian nonna Katia, the no-nonsense wisdom of her mother Cristina, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josie is on the ride of her life.
This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past – and the year she sets herself free.
That last sentence pretty much sums up the book. Similar to the main character in Saving Francesca, Josie Alibrandi lives in Australia, surrounded by her Italian relatives. Josie’s Italian descent is a huge factor in the novel as Josie deals with other people’s pre-conceived notions about her roots and her family. Josie is a very emotional and melodramatic person and she blames her Italian blood for that. Her mom never married so Josie was brought up by her mom. As a result, Josie respects and loves her mother and both of them are very involved in each other’s lives. Josie never knew her dad until he suddenly shows up and both of them reluctantly try to get to know one another. As if her final year at high school isn’t hard enough, two guys from different schools also start to show an interest in Josie: Jacob Coote, the handsome bad boy school captain of a public school, and John Barton, the very intelligent and polished school captain of a male Catholic private school.
I’m starting to think that Italians are very similar to Filipinos. Strong family values, strict Catholics and all that. Josie’s Nonna Katia actually reminded me of my own Lola. My Lola is very old-fashioned and she loves to lecture her grandchildren on how to live properly. Sometimes, when my mom just wants a good laugh, she’d tell my Lola that I was out drinking with friends or some other tidbit of information that she’ll know will set off my Lola. Also, there was one conversation between Josie and Jacob Coote that I could relate to:
“How did your mother die?” I asked him quietly.
“Cancer, about five years ago,” he said.
“I’d die if my mother died.”
He shook his head and looked at me almost gently.
“You don’t die. You just… get really angry and then after you’re angry you hurt a lot and then the best thing is that one day you remember something she said or did and you laugh instead of crying.” He smiled at the thought.
While not as witty as Saving Francesca nor as well-written as Jellicoe Road, Looking for Alibrandi is still a highly enjoyable read with lovable characters. I recommend this for people who’ve read Melina Marchetta’s other books.