The King of Mulberry Street (Napoli)

We used to have a landlady who prided herself (wrongly, more often than not) on coming up with pithy one sentence reviews of plays. She was desperate to be quoted. I am going to take that same chance here.

In her efforts to make this book accurate, Napoli forgot one thing; she forgot to make it good. She clearly did her research – some on her own family, more, she says in a postscript, from histories, contemporary magazines and contemporary newspapers. She clearly learned a lot about sandwiches. How do I know? Because she shares a great deal with us. Don’t get me wrong. I like sandwiches. But this section absolutely torpedoed the already glacial pace of this novel.

There is also no nuance when it comes to her characters. They can be seen a mile away. The gruff storekeeper with the heart of gold. The tough kid who has a secret. The changes in the protagonist are not at all credible. Even the ending, despite one mild and welcome surprise (which I won’t spoil) is utterly predictable.

I’ve never taken so long to get through 240+ pages of young adult fiction. What a chore.


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