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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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There are currently 23 reader reviews for The Empire of Dirt
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Sara Parkin

The Empire of Dirt
The plot was weak i think in an attempt to focus on the main character who was only mildly interesting. I would not buy this book as I had to plow through it. The writing was good or I would have stopped reading it.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher to review. The story focuses on 3 women of a family - grandmother, mother and daughter - but it is the daughter, Valentina's, story. Told in the first person narrative, she tells of her childhood growing up in the "blind house", so named by the neighboring families.
The author writes gorgeous, evocative prose and I was immediately drawn to Valentina and her family background and dynamics. Daily events and life experiences are shrouded in mystery and often take on exaggerated, gothic-like stature. For example, when Valentina first enters puberty, she keeps it to herself, thinking it is something shameful and bad. The house becomes infested with frogs for weeks on end, then leave as quickly as they started, all without reasoning or explanation.
As the story progresses, and the ongoing relationships between these women reveals itself more and more, it became difficult at times to understand what was significant and what wasn't. There was a bit too much meandering from the storyline for me - could have benefited being a little tighter and more focused. The ending itself felt less like a conclusion than it was presented. Having said that, the author's writing as stated above, is beautiful and flows effortlessly and I look forward to reading more from her.
Susan L. (Alexandria, VA)

Beautiful Writing, Lacking Story
This book contains some beautiful sentences, but the story didn't hold together for me. It tended to wander and try to pursue too many points, none of which fully satisfied. The story of the three generations of women in a small Italian town living in a broken down house in the 1990s was a compelling premise, particularly with a "family curse" mentioned at the start. But that curse was never fully realized and the ending left a lot to be desired. I was hoping for more.
Amy S. (Tucson, AZ)

A Slow Moving Summer
The coming of age story of young Vale moved a bit to slowly for my liking. Obviously, this was an important and memorable time period for the main character, as the entire book was based on her memories of this time. However, It was difficult for me to feel Vale's angst and empathize with her during this time-even though I understand the complexities of relationships among women, especially between mothers and daughters. It seemed to me that in many instances, the book lacked essential background information or context for me to fully feel a part of it.

I found the prose beautiful and was particularly moved by a recollected conversation Vale had with her mother near the very end of the book. The "aha moment" just arrived a little too late for me.
Liz D. (East Falmouth, MA)

The Empire of Dirt
Three generations of women are living in a broken down house in a small Italian town in the1990s. Life is changing and each generation is reacting differently. The story is set in 12-year-old Valentina's summer of coming into puberty. Her reaction brings with it all sorts of conflicting emotions. She sees her mother and grandmother as very flawed individuals she can't quite understand.

The book is very unsure of its point of view. Valentina and the book are looking for some meaning that doesn't appear. I was very disappointed reading The Empire of Dirt. I rarely feel negatively about a book after I reading it. This book left me with a bad feeling. The writing was lovely but the story was unmoving.
Nanette S. (San Pierre, IN)

Empire of Dirt
This is not your "run of the mill" coming -of-age story. "In this captivating English-language debut, three generations of women must face their secrets and regrets when an old family curse awakens" is a blurb used to describe this novel, yet for me, it didn't read that way. I am not sure what the significance the "Curse" makes for this family, and I am also not sure why the entire town feels the women aren't "normal". The story moved along well enough but I felt certain circumstances were arbitrarily thrown in to keep it moving. Nonetheless, I will pick up her next novel and see if has improved from this one.
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.
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