I have almost no idea what is going on in this book. It all comes together in the end, sort of, but keeping up requires fierce concentration, a willingness to accept metaphors and metaphysics, and the ability to jump through perspectives and time and space.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book that changed points of view and perspectives so quickly. Mostly, I was playing catch up in Ferocity. Seriously, not one plot point is noted in the order that it happened.

Broadly, Nicola Lagioia’s English language debut is about a family of … let’s say criminal land developers, in Italy. The Salvemini family is fractured, standing on the edge of ruin if the right people don’t get bought off and approve their latest development without an environmental assessment. They don’t get along with each other that well either. That’s it, basically. And then, the oldest daughter dies under bizarre circumstances. The family’s patriarch calls in a favour to have it called a suicide, but her half brother, Michele, isn’t buying it.

The entire book careens between the dead woman’s view point, the viewpoint of each of her family members, the viewpoint of random secondary characters who make up everyone from politicians to gym rats. There are actual rats too. They don’t have points of view in the story, but at one point a cat does. The cat kills an aforementioned rat.

The whole thing is almost 450 pages of random chaos loosely aligned around a plot, so brace yourself. It doesn’t calm down and mostly, nothing becomes much clearer in the end. The main takeaway is people don’t learn from their mistakes and corruption is embedded everywhere and paying attention to the world doesn’t solve anything because the evilness of money and want overwhelms everything good. There were beautiful slivers of writing, a distinct, compelling style and Ferocity is not without its appeal but to clearly define that appeal is difficult.

This is not light reading. Don’t take it to the beach.

I need to go find a historical romance in which everyone is morally superior, there are only two characters to be concerned about, and no one dies of loneliness or a broken heart. And the bad guys are caught and end up in Newgate prison. I’m exhausted.

Nicola Lagioia was at Events 14 (Grand Openings: The Alma Lee Opening Night Event) and 71 (Plentiful Portraits)  at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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