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Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo review: Family dynamics beg closer inspection

Italian author Veronica Raimo's Lost on Me stylishly evokes teenage years in a dysfunctional family

Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo,

Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo, translated by Leah Janeczko is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99)

If you search for Veronica Raimo’s latest novel, Lost on Me, on a certain online marketplace it’ll tell you it is a “100,000-copy Italian bestseller for fans of Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy”. Honestly, what did British publishing do before Cusk and Levy came along?

Raimo’s novel, which is excellent and comes to anglophone readers through a suitably stylish translation by Leah Janeczko, isn’t really similar to Cusk or Levy at all. Instead, reading it I found myself thinking of the Ferrara novels of Giorgio Bassani, works that dramatised his younger years in 1920s and 30s Italy. 

The novel is told by an older Veronica (or Vero, or Verika, or Veronika, depending on whose company she is in) as she looks back over her early life and teen years with a family as comical as it is dysfunctional.

Her mother (who I feel would be fast friends with Hen, the matriarchal figure from Gwendoline Riley’s My Phantoms) is a worrisome busybody, overly protective of her adult son and wholly indifferent to her daughter.

Vero’s father is an obsessive who has a penchant for building walls throughout the family home, bisecting rooms willy-nilly and lowering ceilings to create crawl spaces. But don’t worry, despite what this sounds like, the novel is never quirky. It is a wholly realist work, Vero’s voice providing a sometimes-detached narration that you feel was written with a cigarette in hand. 

If the novel has any flaws, it’s that it is being released in the UK, headfirst into a saturated market of similar works. As a novel written in a spare and precise style from the pen of a biting narrator, there stands the very great fear that it may fall prey to the type of critical voices who use terms like “whip smart” to describe, and relegate, these works to a sludge pile of Rooneyites. I have hope that Raimo will win through. It would be simply impossible for a book this good to go unnoticed.  

Barry Pierce is a journalist and cultural commentator

Lost on Me

Lost on Me by Veronica Raimo, translated by Leah Janeczko is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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