Friday, November 7, 2008

“Volevo I Pantaloni” (Good Girls Don’t Wear Trousers) by Lara Cardella

Year of publication: 1989
Genre: Novel for Young Adults
Setting and Time: Sicily, 1980s and diary entries going back to the 1960s
Themes: Chauvinism, sexual violence, Sicilian traditional society, sexuality

About the author : Lara Cardella was born in 1969 in Licata, Sicily. Her first, best-selling novel, Volevo I Pantaloni, was written when she was only 19. The book caused a scandal in the small Sicilian community where she lived because it fiercely criticized what she perceived as the backwardness and chauvinism of traditional Sicilian society. The controversy surrounding the book, as well as the young age of the author, contributed to make it a huge bestseller in Italy. She has written other novels, including a sequel to this book, but never really matched the success of her first book.

Plot: Annetta, 12, feels suffocated in her small Sicilian village. She believes that wearing trousers will give her freedom, but is told that "only two kinds of people in Sicily wear trousers: men and “puttane” (sluts). Annetta chooses the only option open to her and practices flirting secretly with a young man. She is quickly spotted while passionately kissing, dragged off by her father, and labeled a slut. Plans are made to send her to a neighbouring village to live with her aunt and uncle; this is a horribly brutal plan since her uncle is a known child molester.

Some thoughts: I had to read this book because it is part of the programme for the A-level in Italian. It’s a novel for young adults, but I’m not really sure it was a good choice for students of Italian as a foreign language. Cardella’s way of making the book more realistic is colloquial language (which means no subjunctive!) and a massive dose of Sicilian dialect à la Camilleri (with notes, thanks God).
From Publishers Weekly:

“What may be provocative on one side of the Atlantic, however, can seem merely overblown when exported, and this slender effort bears an unfortunate resemblance to a B-movie. Annetta chafes at the strictures imposed on girls in her small Sicilian town: "Here, women can be wives and mothers but they can never be people." Her own rebellion culminates in kissing a boy in a public place, which lands her in predictable trouble-her father beats her, her mother curses her and both ship her off in disgrace to her aunt and uncle's house."

I agree with the American reviewer: I didn’t recognize the story of Annetta as something that could happen in contemporary Italy and I kept on thinking that the novel was set in the past, let’s say the 1950s. It is also a little didactic and simplistic: I wouldn’t advise this only to learners of Italian who want to read something about traditional Italian (or Sicilian) society, because personally I think that the author exaggerated the chavinism of her village only to sell more copies and create a scandal. Nonetheless, Cardella wrote quite well for a 19-year-old girl. At least I must admit this.


  1. Seen the movie inspired by this book but was too young and didn't get it very well;should see it again.

  2. I think the review was am bit harsh because there was a sense of rality and acceptance in the book and i don't hink she exaggerated. If anything, its simplistic to say these things don't happen anymore.

  3. i think the book is really good. I spent some time in Sicily a a few months ago living there for 10 months. I used to live in a little town in central Sicily. And there is one think I have to say - the book is absolutely true and fantastic. It made me understand quite a few things I didn't understand about the mentality of people living there. Without exaggerating I think I could write a similar book basing on what I saw there and what people behave like in there. Obviously it's not about criticising. It's just describing the culture and the way people whink and live in Sicily. 10 points for the book.

  4. well um i read this book because i had to study it at school and personally i think it is messed up, backwards and why would a 19 year old write anything like this???!, just my opinion.

  5. I am studying this book at the moment at school, so does anyone know of any online study guides for this book? It would be much appreciated!