Alfonso I Review I Cass Moriarty

November 28, 2016

Sometimes a novella is the perfect length - long enough to engage with the characters and to get your teeth into the story; short enough to carry around with you, and to still get that satisfactory feeling of finishing a book! And when the novella is a colourful tale, simply told, full of smells and sounds and visions and ideas and memories and dreams and hopes ... well, so much the better. Felix Calvino's novella Alfonso is all of these things. Alfonso is a Spanish migrant who hopes to master the English language, to prosper, and to meet a good woman, in his new homeland of Australia (not necessarily in that order). This is the story of his journey. It begins with clear and distinct memories of what and who he has left behind - his family, his church, his village, his dead father (killed in the war). It progresses to his first experiences in a land far removed from his place of birth in terms of, well, almost everything - climate and weather, landscape, language, culture, customs and people. It depicts in vivid detail his first struggling attempts to gain a foothold in his new country - simple steps such as purchasing furniture and household implements, to eventually buying a small house and completely renovating it, room by room. And always, hovering in the background of all his successes and failures over the years, is his want and need for a woman to share his life, and his bed. 
This is a book that is easy to read; a straightforward story of home and travels, of arrivals and departures, of making a nest of one's own. It is an interesting and sensitive portrait of the migrant experience of the sixties and seventies, and of just how much it costs - financially, socially, and emotionally - to leave behind all you know in order to follow your hopes for something better. I am looking forward to the launch of Felix's new collection of short stories, So Much Smoke, at Avid Reader on Friday, 16 December.