Nod Ghosh's Reviews > The Company of Men

The Company of Men by Luisa Brenta
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it was amazing

Described as a fictional memoir, this charming book quickly shows itself to be an exceptional piece of work.

It's not so much the premise of the story that appeals, though that is interesting enough: Young Carlotta follows the changes in her grandmother Elisa, as she herself evolves from a child of ten to a young adult. The story occurs on location in the grandmother's fine mansion in Milan and other Italian holiday venues such as Portofino, starting in the early 1960s.

What enchanted me was Brenta's way of expressing the narrator's observations. It has left me hungry to read more of her work.

At the risk of spoiling the surprise of the author's wonderful turn of phrase, I feel compelled to illustrate: -


Grandmother would collect her mouth around a French ü and look as if she was going to produce an egg from the wrong orifice.

One month later, the evening of the party has come. They all have pearls, the ladies. Either they are wearing them or they have them at home, you can tell.

One of (the men) turns an enormously protruding belly our way, along with his head and a Martini glass.

(The peaches) are ripe and yellow; their fragrant velvet skin waiting to be shed − or slipped off like a perfumed gown, to reveal the juicy pulp that promises to fill your mouth, up to your brain and down to your heart.

. . . the church smells of incense and pain and regret as churches sometimes do − a bouquet deprived of hope and celebration.


Brenta's words bring a tingle to the spine, and an occasional tear to the eye. Sometimes they are tears of laughter.

Her characters are delicious. There is the delightful Great Grandmother Bisnonna, who likes to report her daily bowel movements to polite company, and implores Carlotta as a child not to throw herself away. There are the stuffy gossipy ladies who delight in other people's misfortune.

Another aspect of the "The Company of Men" I liked is that it is a surprisingly happy book. It is positively joyful. Though the later stages run against the backdrop of violent student riots of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the tale is redemptive. It is an observation of a person changing for the good, evolving from a creature of social convention to an honest and better person.

Then there is the mysterious optimism when the narrator meets the stranger, an elusive potential tenant in the final chapter.

It is hard to write a happy book, and Brenta has done this. She's done it very well.
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Reading Progress

January 25, 2019 – Started Reading
January 29, 2019 – Finished Reading
February 1, 2019 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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message 1: by Luisa (new)

Luisa Thank you, Nod.
I love the fact that your review is so positive, of course. But I want to be almost as specific as you were:
- I love that you say what exactly you enjoyed
- I love that you find it to be a happy book. Being able to face life with a happy smile was a childhood gift I was given, and had lost for a while. Being able to write happily about it comes from recovering that gift, at last. I'm thankful.
Also to you!

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