12 books in which the house is the protagonist

Vacation, beach, umbrella and a good book: it’s a great classic of the Italian summer. As are the reading tips for those who are undecided about which title will keep us company during the holidays.

Therefore, our proposals could not be missing: we have selected for you 12 between novels and essays to pack. From the great classics to the most contemporary proposals, without disdaining a touch of horror; from foreign fiction to Italian authors; from the masterpieces of the last century to the most recent releases: we had fun exploring very different genres and writers, but all the works share an ever-present element, the home. The rooms and environments are different from time to time, ranging from the kitchen to the cellar, also passing through the secret rooms. But each plays a central role in the books we recommend.

You just have to let yourself be inspired.

The kitchen

Kitchenby Banana Yoshimoto (1988)

The protagonist, a girl, loses the only person she has in the world, her grandmother; she then she takes refuge in the heart of the house, the kitchen, where she thrives without eating. When her schoolmate and her mother invite her to stay in their beautiful home, she still demonstrates her passion for cooking which represents for her the place where food, a basic resource of life, is prepared and we get together to consume it. This beautiful and functional room reflects the serenity of the people who live there. So she resumes eating and living.

I study

A room all to yourselfby Virginia Woolf (1929)

In October 1928 Virginia Woolf was invited to give two conferences on the theme “Women and the novel”. It is an opportunity to systematically elaborate her many reflections on the female universe and literary creativity. The result is this extraordinary essay, a veritable manifesto on the condition of women from its origins to the present day, which traces the woman-writing relationship from the point of view of a centuries-old exclusion through the double lens of historical rigor and passion for literature. How could a woman, asks the English writer, devote herself to literature if she did not have “money and a room of her own”? Thus a path unfolds through the literature of the last few centuries which, following the symbolic day of a writer of our time, becomes a clear and dry reflection on femininity. A classic of writing and thinking.

The bathroom

The Führer’s tankby Serena Dandini (2020)

A black and white snapshot captures a woman of haunting beauty immersed in a completely ordinary bathtub. Looking closely, however, below there are amphibians dirty with mud, and in a corner, on the left, a small painting. The face in the frame is that of Adolf Hitler, the mud is that of Dachau; she, the woman, is Lee Miller: she has recently taken the first images of the liberated concentration camp, and is now washing herself in the Führer’s tub. Taking a cue from a photograph that she discovered by chance, Serena Dandini sets out on the trail of Lee Miller Penrose, one of the most extraordinary personalities of the twentieth century. He looks for her in her places, “talks” with her, traces her formidable existence – which anticipated every female conquest – in a captivating novel, a true story, amidst the glories and tragedies of the last century.


The blue roomby Georges Simenon (1964)

Considered one of Simenon’s most compelling novels, it opens with a memorable opening: a woman lies naked on the unmade bed of a hotel after making love on a summer afternoon. The two lovers, the sensual Andrée and the mild Italian emigrant Tony, have met for eleven months in the blue room that gives the novel its title, where they live their overwhelming passion. The apparently trivial and without substance words that the two satisfied lovers exchange after love, will be destined to be charged with sinister meanings, to the point of becoming for Tony inexorable indictments of two horrendous crimes. Accused of the double murder of Andrée’s husband and his wife, Tony recalls the murky love story throughout the various stages of the trial.

The living room

A physicist in the living roomGuido Corbò (2017)

Is it boring to hear about physics in a living room, during an evening with friends? Maybe not, if whoever talks to you expresses himself in a non-academic way, alternating scientific topics with stories of real life and without taking himself too seriously … In this book the author exposes many topics concerning classical physics and modern physics looking for to make it clear that science is not something far from everyday life, but that in reality we are in contact with it on every occasion. A very readable text, without formulas (except one: E = mc2) and written in a simple style that is more than understandable for everyone.

Figures in the living roomby Norah Lange (1950)

It all begins the night when lightning breaks through the darkness of a Buenos Aires street and a teenager glimpses, in the living room of the house opposite hers, “three subtle and thoughtful shadows”. From that moment on the girl will no longer stop spying on the enigmatic presences, obsessed with the desire to appropriate them and the terror of losing them, until she too can sit in that living room, where she will return every day, because everything, next to the three women, acquires “A sense of rupture, of ferocious oblivion …” “. She invents a life for them, she loves them and hates them, she longs to see them dead – one, in particular, who must have committed something terrible …

The Cellar

Me and youby Niccolò Ammaniti (2010)

Barricaded in the cellar to spend his ski week secretly from everyone, Lorenzo, an introverted and slightly neurotic 14-year-old, prepares to live his solipsistic dream of happiness: no conflicts, no annoying schoolmates, no comedies and fictions. The world with its incomprehensible rules outside the door and he sprawled on a sofa, surrounded by Coca-Cola, cans of tuna and horror novels. It will be Olivia, who suddenly falls into the bunker with her rough and frail vitality, to make Lorenzo cross the shadow line, to make him throw off the mask of a difficult teenager and accept the chaotic game of life out there. With this coming-of-age tale, Ammaniti adds a new, excruciating glimpse to that landscape of adolescence of which he is an incomparable portrait painter. And he gives us with Olivia a female figure of fleeting and poignant beauty.

The blood chamberby Angela Carter (1979)

The stories contained in The blood chamber they refer explicitly to fairy tales. Carter was undoubtedly inspired by the stories of Charles Perrault, who wrote and collected the tales of the oral tradition, translated by the author herself shortly before this anthology.

A young teenager marries an old and rich French Marquis whom she does not love. Arriving at her castle, the girl realizes that he enjoys sadistic pornography and that she takes pleasure in seeing her embarrassment. The young woman is a talented pianist and when the young and blind piano tuner who frequents her property hears the music she plays, he falls madly in love with her. One day her husband informs her that she has to go on a business trip and forbids her from entering a particular room while he is away. In her absence, the girl disobeys this order by entering her room, where, seeing the corpses of the Marquis’s previous wives, she fully discovers the extent of her perverse and criminal tendencies. The brave piano tuner wants to be with her even though he knows he can’t save her. To do so, in fact, at the end of her story will be the girl’s mother, who arrives just in time before the marquis kills her and shoots him.

The garage

Christineby Stephen King (1983)

Three teenagers live their adolescence in a quiet provincial town. The news is few, until Christine appears, a car – a 1958 Plymonth – that Arnie, one of the boys, wants to refurbish at any cost. A desperate undertaking, which for him turns into an obsession, as the machine begins to manifest a disturbing life of its own. And in the dark streets of the town people begin to die …

A fiery red Cadillacby Joe R. Lansdale (2020)

Ed Edwards works in the second hand car business. A sector made up of rigged odometers, rusty wrecks and the idea that the customer should not be fooled. Burdened by an alcoholic mother, who never misses an opportunity to make him feel like a failure, Ed just waits for the right chance to make a change. So when he finds himself foreclosing on a brand new Cadillac that the owners have stopped paying for, his time seems to have come: the Caddy belonged to Frank Craig and his stunning wife Nancy, owners of a drive-in and a cemetery. for animals. Fed up with her drunken husband and eager to make a new life, Nancy proposes to Ed – with whom she ends up in bed in the second meeting – to kill Frank, collect their insurance and manage business together. It’s a tempting offer, but will Ed really have the guts to go through with it?

The garden

The Garden of the Finzi-Continiby Giorgio Bassani (1962)

An unnamed narrator guides us through his childhood memories, in his first encounters with the Finzi-Contini children, Alberto and Micòl, his peers made unreachable by a deep social divide. But the racial laws, which fall on Italy like a sudden storm, bring the three young people closer, making their encounters, as they get older, more and more frequent. Theater of these meetings, often and willingly, is the vast, magnificent garden of the Finzi-Contini house, a place imbued with dreams, expectations and disappointments. The protagonist, day after day, finds himself more and more involved in a feeling of tender, opposed love for Micòl… But now the story is falling and an inauspicious destiny seems to open like an abyss under the feet of the Finzi-Contini family.

A bonus, the neighborhood

A nice neighborhoodby Therese Anne Fowler (2021)

Wide streets, ranch-style brick homes, and lush gardens… Oak Knoll is a much sought-after neighborhood in the middle of a lovable North Carolina town. Oak Knoll is home to Valerie Alston-Holt, a forestry professor, and her talented son Xavier, who will leave for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the fall. An expert in botany, Valerie loves the majestic vegetation of her neighborhood: white and pink dogwoods, chestnuts, pears, viburnums, camellias, cherries, persimmons, hawthorn and holly bushes. And, above all, the great oak that stands in her garden. A few months earlier, however, the irreparable happened: a construction company cut down all the trees that shaded the house next to them, demolished without fuss and taken away like the remains of a storm or an earthquake. Now in its place is a large and bright building, with its bare but expensive garden, a huge swimming pool and, above all, new neighbors.
The Whitmans are the exact opposite of the Alston-Holt: white, wealthy, popular. Brad Whitman, of Whitman Air Conditioners, is a big money jujube; his wife, Julia, with a high ponytail and a very tight fitness top, looks like she has stepped out of the pages of a sports catalog. And then there are the daughters: little, bubbly Lily, and Juniper, with her well-hidden teenage secrets.
With little in common other than an ownership boundary, the two families are inevitably doomed to collide, especially when Brad Whitman, heedless of good neighborly rules, lets the house renovations affect the roots of the oak tree so loved by. Valerie.

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