"EVA SLEEPS" is both a generational saga largely centered around the lives of a mother (Gerda Huber) and daughter (Eva Huber), as well as a 20th century story about the Tyrol Region of Northern Italy (known by its German speakers as 'Trentino-Südtirol' and officially by Italians as 'Alto Adige'), which is a unique part of the country by virtue of its decidedly Germanic culture, language, and ethos. I enjoyed very much learning about Alto Adige, which prior to 1919 (when it was incorporated into Italy) had been a part of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire. Indeed, the history of the long, protracted struggle of the people in Alto Adige/Trentino-Südtirol to have their culture respected by Rome and to be accorded special status within Italy itself is cleverly superimposed by the author Francesca Melandri against the lives of the Huber family, beginning with Gerda's father, Hermann, a rather stern, austere character. It was very fascinating for me to learn all these things. And besides, as someone who studied German in college, I liked being reacquainted with die deutsche Sprache, too.
"EVA SLEEPS" also takes the reader into the life of Eva Huber, who, as a successful businesswoman in her 30s in the late 1990s embarks on a long train ride from Rome to Reggio Calabria on the tip of the Italian boot to reconnect with a part of her past. It offers the reader much more than meets the eye.
On the whole, "EVA SLEEPS" was a novel that put me on a journey that both enthralled and fascinated me. One of the most striking aspects about it was the following reflections that Melandri made that held for me a special resonance:
"There is the time that flows around us, toward us, and through us, time that conditions us and shapes us, the memory we cultivate or shake off --- our History. Then, there is a sequence of places in which we live, between which we travel, where we are physically, places made of roads and buildings but also trees, horizons, temperatures, levels of atmospheric pressure, the major or minor speed with which the water of a river flows, altitude --- our Geography.
"These two trajectories, linked partly by fate and partly by free will, meet every instant and in every place at a spot, like in a Cartesian graphic cosmos, and the sequence of these spots forms a line, a curve and sometimes, if we're lucky, even a pattern which, if it's not harmonious, then at least it's one you can make out.
"This is the shape of our lives."