The strength of friendship
Beatrice Salvioni “La Malnata” Einaudi editore, 2023
I was struck by the title of this debut novel and was intrigued by the story. While I was not too attracted by the historical period in which it was set, I ventured on to read it after reading excellent reviews. Maddalena, the “Malnata”, is a thirteen-year-old working-class girl, living in a village on the Lambro river in Lombardy. She is a figure that sticks out because she was born on the opposite side of the foreshadowed and intended side of pre-war Fascism. It is interesting to understand how, in 1936, Fascism had penetrated into the many places of town life, in school, in church, street meetings, and conditioned their thoughts, attitudes and ways of being. Women and girls had Mussolini’s photo in their books and notebooks, just as we do today with celebrities, influencers and the various media circuses. This is a coming-of-age novel narrated by a well-to-do girl called Francesca. Her encounter with Maddalena, referred to by everyone as the “Malnata” because disastrous events are associated with her as if she were a devil, proves to be decisive in discovering friendship and above all the strength to rebel against the abuse and violence that the narrow-minded climate of Fascism allowed, especially towards women.
Rosa Lupoli is a Capuchin nun in Naples, the abbess of the Santa Maria in Gerusalemme monastery known as the Trentatrè, founded by Blessed Maria Lorenza Longo