Monday, August 4, 2008

Guest Blog--The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon

Since we arrived in San Diego six weeks ago, I have been waiting anxiously for the UCSD Library to process the new Donna Leon mystery, The Girl of His Dreams. I have been checking online regularly, and finally there it was in the stacks at the Geisel Library. Unfortunately, a few necessary things in life such as walking on the beach and eating out for lunch have kept me from reading it nonstop since I picked it up.

Leon’s books usually revolve around current problems in society. This time, the story is about the death of Ariana an eleven-year-old Gypsy, or to be more politically correct Rom, girl. Her family travels with a group who came into Italy following the break up of Yugoslavia. Both of her parents have UN refugee identity papers. And all three of their children were born in Italy.

Brunetti is haunted in his dreams by the face of this fragile little girl who fell from a roof into the canal in Venice and drowned. As he endeavors to look into her death, he is confronted by many different preconceived ideas about the nomadic group of which she is a member. There is no doubt that she and probably one of her siblings were housebreaking at the time of her death. On her body are found a wedding ring and a watch which are both engraved. The common practice of the Rom is to send their children to pickpocket or housebreak in search of gold jewelry that can easily be converted to cash. If they are under 13, the police do not detain them or prosecute in any way. The children are simply returned to their parents again and again and again.

As always when I read Leon, I was drawn into the life and views and feelings of Commissario Brunetti and his family. The books depict a life in Italy where corruption in government and society is accepted practice and is expected. Brunetti strives to navigate through these dangerous waters while trying to retain his own personal integrity and views that all people are deserving of being protected by the laws of the nation.

Today the European Union is struggling with growing prejudice towards immigrants. They have changed the face of nations and have influenced the world they have moved into. Frequently, the Europeans are resentful of the crime and demands upon social welfare that seem to have increased with the immigration of peoples from Africa and Eastern Europe. Italy is currently in the process of fingerprinting the Rom or Roma who live in their nation. Of course, this has sparked controversy about violating their human rights.

Frequently, Leon’s mysteries end without justice being served or any real resolution to the problems facing her characters and us the readers. Pretty much the way life really is. In this novel, there are several problems which challenge Brunetti and some of them have very satisfactory endings. As always, Leon has left me much to think about beyond mystery novels.


Blogger said...

It is so hard when things like the beach and eating out interrupt your reading life.

Blogger said...

I thought of Donna Leon as I read The Monster of Florence since it deals with so much police corruption.

Of course, I don't know what to think about the immigration issue. Since I lived in Eastern Europe and on the Mexican border, I tend to be very sympathetic towards people who immigrate for economic security.

notaconnoisseur said...

One of the positive aspects of Leon is that Brunetti is a very sympathetic character. He feels real concern for other's suffering and is angered by prejudice. But then she also gives space to express the other voices that are out there...the people who feel threatened by change or who are afraid or against anyone different. One of Brunetti's friends expresses the reality that if his children did not go to school or were picked up several times for shoplifting etc., Italian social services would step in and take his children from him. So he is angry that the Rom live by different laws in the community.