Here at Other Words Books I’m pleased to announce our first ever guest reviewer. [INSERT DRUMROLL HERE] Many thanks to Adam who kindly agreed to read and review Charlie Chaplin’s Last Dance, a novel loosely based around Chaplin’s early career and the birth of the cinema, written by prize-winning Italian author Fabio Stassi and translated by Stephen Twilley. Adam is a Chaplin expert so the perfect person for the task. I’m pleased he enjoyed the book and truly appreciate that he took the time to write such a considered appraisal. Read more about Adam and read his review here. There are no spoilers but be warned, it will make you want to read the book!
Now for a few of my own thoughts. Even if, like me, you don’t know much about Chaplin’s life, this is a hugely enjoyable read with characters and episodes that stay with you long after you’ve finished the story. It is well-paced throughout and contains a wealth of striking imagery, conveyed beautifully in Stephen Twilley’s translation. In his final years, as Chaplin embarks on a letter to his young son, he begins:
“I write to you from the small boxwood table in the corner of my room. I’m convinced that on small, compact tables, ideas stay together, and you don’t have to chase them like geckos across a wall, you just stretch out an arm and take them by the tail.”
And later on, when Charlie recounts his shortlived stint working in a sweet shop we hear that: “…we sold more candy to old folks than to children. At certain hours of the day they would fill the shop like flocks of migratory birds resting on the branches of a tree, and while I weighed out a quarter or a half pound of sweets they would sit off to one side and peck at their memories for entire afternoons.”
As far as I can tell, this is Stassi’s only novel to have been translated into English, a great shame because he has written quite prolifically and won many prizes in his native Italy. The three book series featuring Vince Corso, a bibliotherapist and investigator who prescribes books instead of medicine, sounds particularly intriguing. His latest novel, a retelling of the Pinocchio story from the perspective of a troubled and contemporary Geppetto, has recently been published by Sellerio. We can hope that by taking another universal character as his subject, Stassi’s undoubted talent for storytelling will once again attract the attention of an English language publisher.