In a time in which one gets married less and less and separates more and more, it is almost obvious to ask whether the crisis of marriage – the institutional form of the oath of eternal love – is truly irreversible. Is it a question of social selfishness, of weakness of ties, of widespread narcissism? Every now and then some scientific essay thinks about it and every now and then literature does it. Angelo Mellone, with In the best families (Mondadori), he chose the second path, following a path that from political reports led him to the theater and then to novels. In truth Mellone, before writing a couple of fantasy books and above all two novels dedicated to a generational story of young post-fascists from which a TV series is being drawn, had also dedicated to the theme of separation a few years ago Dear You. Letter to an ex-wife (Add), but with this book the story passes from the epistolary, intimate and denunciation form, to that of the story that has an almost cinematic plot.

Angelo Mellone (Taranto, 1973) is a journalist and deputy director of Raiuno

Everything starts with a tragedy: the loss of a child, hit by a pirate car in Corso Francia in Rome, the eldest of the four boys of Piero Cometti and Elisabetta, two characters that could not be more different. Piero is a famous Roman plastic surgeon, son of a university baron linked to the PCI, convinced in an extravagant but intriguing way that aesthetics are the new ground for achieving communism; Elisabetta, in turn the daughter of an important magistrate, is instead a TV presenter of Apulian origin who is admittedly “right”. They are children of rich and powerful dynasties, their family is envied by the Rome that counts. They met as boys, theirs was a very strong love, their home game of left and right – Piero creative and indulgent with his children, Elisabetta more severe and methodical – produced fantasy and fun rather than conflict, until his disappearance. by Flavio does not suddenly tear everything apart. Their castle of certainties collapses, the breath of a tragedy is enough to bring everything down and leave two fifty-year-olds naked in the face of the unleashing of what Mellone defines as “vanity” but which we could also define dictatorial desires, whims, youthful anxieties, immoderate ambitions .

The cover of the novel “In the best families” by Angelo Mellone (Mondadori, pp. 287, euro 18)

They are situations that are well known to any of us and that the author transfers in a privileged context, in a family crash where there are no third party inconveniences or economic problems to disturb a primarily sentimental crisis, the breakdown of a couple relationship so sure of itself, and perhaps presumptuous, that they do not perceive their own weaknesses and defeat.

Here Mellone seems to question his generation, the forties and fifties, without children or perhaps with children shared in extended families, not very willing to sacrifice the “right” to their own freedom and independence in the name of family and offspring. Perhaps he himself asks himself the same questions, loading them on the two protagonists. Piero and Elisabetta do not make a scene in court, they do not throw rags on each other, they do not mount their children against each other but, as in black magic, they begin to despise each other, silently, turning love into rancor and so on, up to when a specific request from the three children forces them to spend a week’s holiday together in Cortina d’Ampezzo, at her parents’ home.

This is where the real story begins, when we enter on Christmas Eve in the emergency room of a hospital. Piero runs after a stretcher on which Denis, the youngest son, is lying. In an off-piste with his father he had a disastrous fall, he is in critical condition. Precisely for that evening Elisabetta organized a dinner in which her descent into politics can be decided: a worldly event that is very important for her fits in with a drama in progress. So Piero and Elisabetta are forced to live together until dawn on Christmas day in the waiting room of the hospital and, for the first time in years, they find themselves sharing a problem.

This finally pushes them to come to terms with each other’s perception, with who they are and who they are in front of, in a plot that gradually becomes populated and depopulated with pimps, false friends, demanding children, anaffective brothers, mother-in-law at war, wise elderly, embarrassed doctors, characters who appear and disappear – except Andrea , the psychologist who, session after session, helps us to get to know Piero – each leaving something that directs the story towards a fresco that claims to save the family from the rhetoric of its necessary dissolution, so fashionable in cinema and literature.

If it weren’t for a tragic detail that is revealed only on the last page, it would almost be defined as a kind of Christmas fairy tale – not surprisingly set in an empty, lunar and star-filled curtain – which alternates pages of great bitterness with others that are very sweet, in the way two people who loved each other very much, then disproportionately denigrated, they rediscover that under the ashes of hatred there is still something good, at least the desire to return to respect themselves. Problems that, as the title of the book explains and as the former father-in-law reminds Piero, happen everywhere, even “in the best families”, and that Mellone has tried to present us in the dialogues, in the digressions, in the yearning of a generation tormented by guilt feelings.

April 7, 2021 (change April 7, 2021 | 21:40)

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