Genre: Adult fiction
Who was Mennulara? As the servant of the wealthy Alfallipe family, she made many impressions on people during her life. But was she simply the servant, or did she have deeper connections? Why was the mafia leader at her funeral? Why was she so wealthy? Why did she have such a high status in the family that she served?
This is an especially hard book to review for a couple of reasons. First of all, I haven't had the chance to devote a lot of time time to reading it. The book was a bit spaced out, and I feel like my enjoyment suffered because of it. Second, the nature of the book is so strange, and I'm not used to reading material like this! Let me elaborate on that.
The Almond Picker was translated from Italian in 2005 (which leads me to wonder how it would be possible to translate an entire book and not twist the author's meaning - that has always fascinated me). The story takes place during the course of the two or so weeks following the death of Mennulara. We are thrown into the past as each character remembers their experiences with this mysterious woman, some of which are horrifying and totally unexpected. The way the book is written is really cool, because Mennulara feels like the main character even though she's not alive. There's no way we can trust the memories of the various people, and that makes it all so exciting!
This book's strength clearly lies in its characters. And were they ever abundant! Like a big, fictional Italian family. The dynamics were there, the emotions were there, and the feuds were certainly there. Mimicking real life, certain people had issues that were long buried in the past and forgotten. It's only because of the present circumstances that we get to be spectators in this scandalous, mysterious, and slightly disturbing showcase of personal demons. It was a complex web of characters, but Hornby is an expert at making it make sense.
Despite a rather dry plot, The Almond Picker is a true gem. I don't know if it's because of the Italian-ness, but the book felt like a whole new level of literature. The ending is extremely open-ended, but there's no way to figure out the truths if the person involved is dead. Isn't that cool? I love unreliability in books, and was totally entranced by this one. I suggest you try it out of you aren't dependent on a fast-paced plot. Enjoy!