illed with incredible characters, a fantastical plot, and written with vibrant language, Olivo Oliva is a strange book not to be missed.
the story surrounds Olivo Oliva: "He had been baptized Olivo Oliva before God. Olivo for his olive-shaped head, and Oliva for his testicles, like a pair of pickled green olives...Olivo Oliva lived dangerously, and in his veins flowed the oil of the Olive." with a supporting cast of quirky characters that includes a pair of olive tree doctors known as the Pizzi brothers (along with their loyal and well paid donkey, Tito Asino), Mr. Apandollo who acts as Olivo Oliva's murderous mentor, and even the author Poloni, who makes a guest appearance, Olivo Oliva is reminiscent of the novels of Salman Rushdie (if i recall correctly the style is called 'magical realism').
the story opens with the patriarchal olive tree, the father of all the olive trees in sicily, who is slowly dying. a lowly olive convinces the ancient tree to drop it into an unsuspecting young woman who lays below the tree with her lover - and the plot quickly unfolds from there.
perhaps the plot moves a little too fast in the middle of the book, though. the opening is so descriptive that the mad plot-rush through the middle section feels too hurried and comes across as absurd. this is resolved, however, by the strong ending which brings back Poloni's masterfully crafted style and thick descriptions.
i thought the post-modern self-reflexivity of this book would get on my nerves and spoil the read; Poloni, fortunately, had the skill to use this technique sparingly, although still too often for my liking. a final thing that bothered me was the scattered references to canada, which i felt completely unnecessary. i suppose such country-name-dropping was vital to getting canada council funding, so i can't really knock Poloni on this. regardless of such complaints, by the end of the book you are craving more - wanting to know the fate of Olivo Oliva, needing to read more about the Pizzi brothers, craving the sights and scents of sicily.
this book is both mythological and highly addictive. a recipe for a deliciously good time would include picking up a copy of Olivo Oliva, acquiring masses of olives, having several bottles of wine at hand, and enjoying a creation of grand proportions.
published by stoddart