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The Empire of Dirt

A Novel

by Francesca Manfredi

The Empire of Dirt by Francesca Manfredi X
The Empire of Dirt by Francesca Manfredi
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  • Published Jul 2022
    208 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

    Paperback Original.
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Page 3 of 4
There are currently 23 member reviews
for The Empire of Dirt
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  • Maureen J. (Gresham, OR)
    Strange Title
    This was not a particularly enjoyable book unless one has a penchant for strangeness. The dynamics between generations depicted how education and modern society lead people to be respectful of older family members and yet avoid family traditions. In my opinion, this story is unnecessarily weird in relating the throes and perplexities of a young girl growing up and understanding the world around her.

    What did make the novel interesting was the author's ability to make the reader realize the complex thinking and emotions taking place in this young body. The increasing level of understanding of herself and others (friends and family) as she grew older was well done. One could feel the physical and societal remoteness of this farm and its inhabitants with the writing, but left me wondering what had occurred that seemed to estrange the family from the community.

    All in all, I would consider The Empire of Dirt to be quite interesting, but not a relaxing easily understood read.
  • Windell H. (Rock Hill, SC)
    The Empire of Dirt
    I found this book to be an average read. Not a well defined plot. A book of three women who are facing usual occurrences in life. The writing was good but not a good coming of age novel. I would not recommend it for book club.
  • Margaret A. (Cornelius, NC)
    The Empire of Dirt
    Manfredi's English-language debut is an evocative tale of one young woman's coming-of-age in 1990s rural Italy.

    Valentina lives with her mother and grandmother in the Italian countryside. There is talk of a curse and the town calls them witches. When Valentina turns twelve and has her first period things begin to happen that gas Valentina believing she's brought the curse on her family

    This story didn't quiet meet my expectations. There were a number of themes that could have been developed a little more or left out and some themes that needed closure. It seems too many ideas and not much tied together
  • Tami H. (Randleman, NC)
    Women and Guilt
    I enjoyed reading The Empire of Dirt. It took a while to get the timeline of events, but once I did I enjoyed the three generations of women.

    The book tells of events that reflect the same plagues as described in the book of Exodus. However, only the grandmother sees these as a plague from a god. The mother and daughter each feel they are guilty of causing the plagues that befall the family home for a single summer.

    I believe most women today experience constant guilt over things they have done, and the author uses this common guilt to tell her story. However, as we learn, the guilt we feel is unwarranted and is not the usually the cause of terrible events that occur in our lives.

    The book reached a satisfying conclusion.

    I would recommend the book to women you enjoy literary fiction about the emotions of women's life.
  • Irene H. (Saugerties, NY)
    The Empire of Dirt
    The Empire of Dirt could be called a novel of female fears, difficulties and superstitions. Written in a singularly poetic style, and including the points of view of a superstitious grandmother, a pleasure seeking mother, and a teenager on the verge of womanhood, the novel addresses the challenges of womanhood. The interactions among these three characters take place in the "blind house," a crumbling and windowless box isolated outside of town.

    These elements of plot, character and setting should have engaged my interest and caused me to relate to the almost universal female life events of birth, menstruation, change of life and old age. However, I found the characters to be depressing individuals who seemed to me to be generally lacking in either the will or the ability to navigate the waters (literal and figurative) of female maturation. Their interactions seemed more akin to the crumbling home in which they lived than to the natural emergence of personal strengths and understandings which we as women hope for. Were it not written by a respected female author, I would suggest that there are elements of woman bashing in the text.

    My response may very well be culturally tainted by my own identity as an American feminist. Having said that, I apologize to Ms. Manfredi for disliking her book.
  • Amber H. (Asheville, NC)
    Not sure what to think
    I'm not sure how to describe this book, as I'm not entirely sure what it is about. The book is a "girl coming of age" story, but there doesn't seem to be much of a story here. The description talks about a family curse which is hinted at, but there's very little of this included in the book. There's partially developed story lines with Valentina's friend Ilaria, romantic interest Marco, father, mother and grandmother, but none of these relationships seem to go anywhere in the book. I would have liked to see at least one of these explore in further detail as I had some interest. This book is short and quick to read, although my interest level in it was lacking.
  • Juli B. (Prosper, TX)
    Wanted to get off the "struggle bus" of reading...
    Books arrive to my reading pile from various sources and often must match the right "timing" for me to read and absorb the storyline in order to make a lasting impact. I hold great admiration for all authors who find their creativity put into publication; that same emotion stands for Francesca Manfredi and her novel "The Empire of Dirt" although I cannot say I fully understood her rather poetic style of writing. I spent time dog-earring pages for reference and re-reading passages to make connections between characters and events, but still just did not embrace the story. I wanted to get off the "struggle bus" of reading the novel several times, but pushed through distractions in my personal life to give the book it's justice. I still cannot say I recommend this selection to others. In the chapter titled "Boys" Valentina is searching for guidance, but must be content with only observations as her mother remains aloof and a bit mysterious: "As I grew older, I learned to discern every trick and every mechanism behind something that appeared to be entirely instinctive." Poor young soul craved attention and was desperate to learn from someone who seems to be so persuasive, yet disinterested in sharing. Several passages were difficult to accept; in chapter 8 Valentina overhears her mother talking with Stefano and readers learn the truth about her mother's outlook to maternal parenting, "Two things: bringing us into the world and nursing us on guilt. Makers, manufacturers of guilt. That's what I call them. It's how they keep us bound to them." Ugh! Depressing at best and terribly discouraging for a young girl trying to figure out her place in the world. And maybe that is the crux of the problem; I felt empathy for Valentina and just did not like any of the other characters in the novel nor did I understand the significance of the multiple plague-like events or the naming of the chapters. Perhaps this selection was the wrong book for me at the time, but I do not feel compelled to try again.

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