The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri

The Book of Hidden Things - Francesco Dimitri

TITLE:  The Book of Hidden Things


AUTHOR:  Francesco Dimitri




"Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.

A visit to his house increases the friends' worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can't go to the Carabinieri so must make enquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumours about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss's daughter of terminal leukaemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, that promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.







*********************************LOTS OF SPOILERS*************************************





This is supposed to be a dark magical realism / fantasy novel.  It should probably be marketed as a psychological thriller or a smutty boys-novel or something like that. This is not a book for children or teenagers. The writing style is decent and the concept interesting, though hardly original. 


The novel starts off slowly with tantalizing hints of a mystery that needs solving. The description of the scenery and the food is beautifully written.  The exploration of family and friend dynamics, as well as the difference (or lack thereof) between magic, religion and what goes on in your head is interesting.  However, the characters are stereotypically flat (and unloveable) - all four friends are members of a boys club that never grows up, all obsessed (some more than others) with girls and sex, are rather self-centered, and seem to be having a mid-life crisis.  For a magical realism novel, there is a ridiculous amount of ink dedicated to sex, nudity, imaginary sex and the objectication of women.  This all got tedious after the first quarter of the novel, and rather creepy after that.  The "magic" only appears near the end of the book, and you are never sure if it's magic or someone needs some lithium.  In addition, there are unresolved issues (what happened to Art as a kid?  is there magic involved or are they all just mentally unstable?) that are brushed off and the reader is left with speculation and guess-work.  The ending was weak and disappointing.  I could also have done without the animal murders (!!), even though they were there for a valid reason.  As for "The Book of Hidden Things" - this was a complete let down.  It only appears near the end of the novel and is a mish-mash of New Age WooWoo and Catholicism.

(show spoiler)

Vulgar, juvenile and somewhat creepy is my final impression of this novel. 



WARNING:  Animal cruelty!!!!