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Things That Happened Before the Earthquake

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,038 ratings  ·  150 reviews
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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 15th 2017 by Doubleday Books
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Felice Laverne
Chiara Barzini’s Things That Happened Before the Earthquake 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
Irena BookDustMagic
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
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
What an aptly titled book: "Things That Happened." This is a book about things happening - one after another in monotonous succession. Well, it's actually about an Italian girl, Eugenia, who relocates to Los Angeles with her family in the 1990s, but where it endeavors to be a candid coming of age story, it falls short with a pace that languishes and a promise of emotional poignancy that never really delivers. I was unable to form an emotional connection with any of these characters, and the whol ...more
Francesca Marciano
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barzini writes a wonderful account of what is like to be a teenager in the Valley when her parents move the family from Italy to California . An unusual coming of age written from the point of you of an Italian girl who has landed in the heart of America too soon for her to decipher the rules and feel at home. Hilarious and heart wrenching, fearless in its honesty, this is a fictional memoir like no other.
Kate Olson
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A raw, honest and exquisitely foreign look at early 1990's Los Angeles through the eyes of a not-so-innocent teen girl. (NOT a YA book)

Thanks to Doubleday books for providing me with a finished copy for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

When a book opens on an early 90's LA beach with an Italian family (including the grandmother) sunbathing in the nude, you just know it's not going to be a typical story. And oh my goodness, it surely wasn't typical! THINGS THAT HAPPEN BEFORE THE EART
Jean Cole
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Full disclosure: the writing is skillful, the pace is good. Usually these things garner at least 3 stars from me. But I could not wait to finish this book.
It's the story of an adolescent girl whose family moves from Italy to Los Angeles with dreams of making it in the movie business. Through her eyes we see the seamy underbelly of American culture as it existed in Los Angeles just after the Rodney King riots.
I see the value in viewing "the American dream" without the benefit of rose-colored glas
Heather Fineisen
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is really all about seeking a safe place and not finding it in Los Angeles or an Italian island. The main character makes some cringe inducing decisions while she searches for her safeplace in the wrong places. Yet the main character is likable in her vulnerability and you can't help but root for those in her mad cap family circle. Sad and scary, a good coming of age story while mirroring the history of LA from Rodney King to O.J. Simpson.

Provided by Net Galley
Lolly K Dandeneau
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this novel (labelled ‘Fictional Memoir by Francesca Marciano) such a fun read, albeit uncomfortable and tragic in parts. It is a beautifully rendered coming-of-age novel whose main character resonated with me deeply. Eugenia’s vulnerability, isolation and empathic nature made her extremely likeable and I was rooting for her throughout. She is victim of the eccentricities and personal hells of the people around her and her struggle through this is admirable.

The title provides the key to t
Allen Adams
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I’ve always been a sucker for a coming of age story. There are unending compelling ways to tell a tale of growing up; the struggles of adolescence are both universal and unique.

Chiara Barzini’s debut novel is “Things That Happened Before the Earthquake.” It’s the story of a young Italian girl brought by her filmmaker parents to Los Angeles circa 1992; she’s largely left to her own devices when it comes to navigating this new life, and unsurprisingly, it do
The novel is written like a movie script being shot with a single-lens camera, moving focus from one scene to another, as the author who serves as casting director introduces a myriad of characters who appear, acts in one scene and exits stage left just as quickly. While they are in the limelight, the audience is asked to focus on the actors' physical attributes as if this is the only way to know them. This reel-style narrative doesn't give much time for character development, and even family ro ...more
Kasa Cotugno
LA through the lens of an Italian teenager whose self-absorbed parents move from Rome, following the Hollywood dream. Given an extraordinary amount of freedom, Eugenia is free to explore the San Fernando Valley and beyond -- as she puts it, her father believed that putting his family in danger (throw the baby in the pool and he will survive) attitude will form protective armor. The opening passage is hysterical, sets the tone. The family, including Grandma, is nude bathing, illegally, at Malibu, ...more
Daniel Casey
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
At its best, this is a trite story that's less coming-of-age and more a dull game of 'what I remember from the early 90s.' None of the characters offer anything of interest, the protagonist is vacuous & ultimately a useless vehicle for any kind of narrative. This novel is a waste of space & an embarrassment to YA & literary fiction ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
When you think of California, you think of that easy breezy place where everyone surfs and eats vegan and worries more about how they're composting than how people in the middle of the country are starving.

However, California has its own checkered past and in the early 90s you saw something similar to what's happening in America today. Things that Happened Before the Earthquake takes that slice of time between the LA Riots and OJ Simpson's infamous white bronco ride to punctuate the life of a fa
Dawn O. | Left Coast Reader
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faves, 2017-reads
I fell in love with THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE from the get-go! The story opens up with Eugenia’s parents and grandmother sunbathing nude on a beach in Malibu – yes, you read that right! I was a teenager coming of age in the 1990’s and Barzini captures the people and culture during this toilsome time to a T – LA riots, O.J. Simpson’s acquittal, and the Northridge earthquake.

Plucked from her quaint and cozy life in Rome, Eugenia’s hippy parents moved to LA to get rich and famous a
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs-netgalley
Thank you to Doubleday Books for sending me this free copy!

This book is about Eugenia, a teenager plucked from her home in Rome to California's San Fernando Valley due to her filmmaker parents hoping to make it big in Hollywood. Her past and present homes could not be more different, and she struggles to assimilate herself to an American lifestyle. Her experiences are often gritty and raw, and she never holds back in her narration.

I've mentioned in a previous post that coming-of-age stories ar
Nicole D.
This book was on a number of "best of" lists for 2017.

It caught my attention because I was a young adult in So Cal during the period this book took place. It started pretty strong - a family moves from Italy to the US to "make it" in Hollywood. Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Grandma. The book is told from POV of sister, a high school aged girl. There were some really fun reminders about time and place (and some not some fun reminders ... Rodney King, the Northridge earthquake, the OJ car chase.)

Sian Lile-Pastore
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this a lot and really enjoyed the writing style and the narrative voice. I loved the Italian teenager in la idea and that thing of feeling out of place and being embarrassed by your parents - going naked on the beach, but also making really good food!
I loved her relationship with Deva and how her situation was hinted at but never fully explained.
The bit about praying to mother Mary seemed to drop by the way side tho - what happened there? Did she just forget?
Anyway. Really enjoyed it, I
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-brnri
This was a unique novel with some stellar writing. The setting was too good-- LA (Van Nuys) in the early 90s. The descriptions of the neighborhood and city were out of this world.

The story is from the POV of a teenage girl whose parents move her family from Italy with stars in their eyes. This sums up the first half, which I loved. The second half spirals into some tired plot lines and generally loses the momentum and mood of the first half. I'd say 5 stars for the first half and 3 for the seco
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
While I liked the writing style, I am really out off when expected to read about juveniles tripping on drugs and their drunken behaviors. A very little of that goes a very long way for me. This felt much like reading that totally depressing and noir short story collection that Janes Franco wrote. Yuck! If you were that dysfunctional and you want to include it as part of your autobiography, okay, but don’t expect me to enjoy reading of such escapades. It’s just depressing to me...
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strictly speaking this is more of a 3.5, but I'll round up because I thought it was a more adept than usual coming-of-age novel (and I don't love coming-of-age novels), with some really remarkable (and haunting) passages. If you can get past the godawful cover art, this is a bit of a sleeper gem. ...more
Michelle Lu
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I realized while reading this coming-of-age novel that I'm sort of tired of reading coming of age novels. No fault of the was more a realization that as a 25 year old, anxiously/patiently reading about 16 year olds discovering sex as a substitute for self esteem, then realizing that they have choice, then finding things that make them feel confident and true, etc. etc, and following this all the way until they're college-aged--this isn't that thought provoking or enjoyable anymore.

Nathan Rosenstock
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, and it has definitely earned a spot as one of my favorites. This novel was real, honest, and showed how beautiful the imperfect can be. There were parts that were difficult to read, but those are the parts that made it so tangible, and made the story linger with me for days. You should read this book, especially if grew up in the 90’s.
Siel Ju
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Everyone said where they were and what they heard when it happened. Some had sad stories, some head happy stories.”
When I think of the ’90s, I think Nirvana, Beverly Hills 90210, and long stretches of childhood boredom. But Chiara Barzini’s debut novel reminded me that the ’90s was actually a rather violent and volatile time in Los Angeles, what with the L.A. Riots, the Northridge Earthquake, and of course, the O.J. Simpson Trial.

Which is to say — reading Chiara’s debut novel, Things That Happ
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Things That Happened Before the Earthquake" is a tale of a family from Rome that comes to Los Angeles just weeks after the 1992 riots. The main character is Eugenia, a high school student, who does her best to manage the American teenage landscape and find her place. After losing one of her "friends" to a gang shooting at the mall, she befriends a girl named Deva who lives in a Topanga commune with her dad and twin brother. Eugenia's parents, with the help of a family friend, try to get into t ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Eugenia is not a typical American teenager. For one thing, she's Italian. Her bohemian parents decided to move from Rome to Los Angeles to make movies, and as it's the early 1990s, they make this decision while watching the L.A. riots on television. 

After the family moves to California and Eugenia is introduced to her American high school, things sadly do not get better. She is dropped into a dark and dangerous city, in a dark and dangerous school. There are metal detectors at the doors, actual
Mellanie Ann Duque
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have read bunch of books before and Things That Happened Before the Earthquake is one of those books I enjoyed reading; a very intriguing story of a young girl Eugenia. For me reading this book is such an extraordinary experience. It talks about different topics which I think really diverse; social differences, families, friends and self-finding. There is something with the first chapter that got me hooked with the whole story, I mean, Eugenia is such an interesting character! She was careless ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wouldn't look for "ruefully funny" as this book is described as since "Things That Happened Before the Earthquake" are in fact not funny and sometimes downright disturbing.

Eugenia is moved to L.A. in the '90's by her parents, Italian filmmakers who hope to make a movie and make it big in Hollywood at the expense of their own family. As Eugenia moves through her teenage years, it's a disturbing trail of neglectful families, heartbreaking relationships that go nowhere, and most vile of all, just
Renee (some kind of a library)
3.5 Stars!

I recently finished Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini and couldn't wait to share my review! Told in three sections, TTHBTE is a story about Eugenia who is an Italian teenage girl trying to find her place in either her home country (Italy) or nineties LA (where her parents move their family at the start of the book).

So much of this story is relatable on the level of being a teenage girl who doesn't quite fit in. A girl trying to find a place as the "new girl
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
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Chiara Barzini is an Italian screen and fiction writer. She has lived and studied in the United States where she collaborated with Italian Vanity Fair, GQ, XL Repubblica, Rolling Stone Italy, Flair, and Marie Claire while publishing essays in American magazines such as the Village Voice, Harper’s, Vogue, Interview Magazine, Vice, and Rolling Stone. Her fiction has appeared in BOMB Magazine, The Co ...more

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