Thursday, December 09, 2010

REVIEW: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys' school that's pretends it's coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can't seem to stop thinking about.

Then there's Francesca's mother, who always thinks she knows what's best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, along, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

It is official. After reading this book, Melina Marchetta has catapulted onto my list of favourite ever authors. I absolutely adored Saving Francesca. I've felt such extreme emotions when reading Melina Marchetta's books - she creates absolutely wonderful characters and situations that tug at my heartstrings.

Saving Francesca tells the story of a girl caught in a awkward and difficult place. She is enrolled at an all-boy's school that has recently allowed girls to attend. She is without the comfort of her old friends at her previous school and must forge a new identity, circle of friends and a place for her to belong at St. Sebastian's. To make matters worse, Francesca's mother, normally a force-of-nature and the strength behind her entire family can't get out of bed and is suffering from really severe depression. Francesca must hold it together at school, at home with her family and for herself while everything else seems to be tumbling down around her.

Francesca is such a wonderful and endearing character. She's not really sure who she is without her mother and her old friends pulling her in two different directions. At the start of the novel, we can see how uncomfortable and out of place Francesca feels at St. Sebastian's. It seems as though Francesca has moulded herself into the person she thinks her friends want and need her to be that she's lost who she is. I think it's quite common for teenagers in high school to succumb to this sort of peer pressure and this hiding of our natural abilities and personalities. The journey that Francesca takes of self-discovery was subtle and natural and felt very believable. The way in which Francesca is able to find a place with a new set of friends with some very unexpected people also made for some very interesting reading. Together with Francesca's I loved the transformation of the other characters, especially Jimmy and Thomas, from annoying and minor people circling around Francesca's school life into close friends. I absolutely loved Francesca's voice, and she comes out with such insightful gems about life at school, her Italian relatives, her friends and her family. I think it'd be very hard for readers to not instantly care about Francesca.

But it's Francesca's experiences with her mother's depression that had me blubbing loudly in bed at 2am. Having battled with depression for many years, this storyline just ripped my heart out. All the emotions that go together with a family member's depression were there and each felt perfect. Francesca's feelings of guilt - if she'd been a better daughter, if she'd noticed sooner. Her confusion and grief should almost be a character in its own right. And the blame that she places squarely on her father, poor man. Francesca really channels all of her anger at her mother for not being there into blaming her father for her mother's depression. Their whole family dynamic has changed and everything is falling to pieces. I loved the relationship between Francesca and her little brother Luca. You could tell how much each cared about the other and how much keeping their broken family together meant to the both of them.

And then there's Will Trombal. My heart skipped a beat at the chemistry between Will and Francesca, even at the beginning when Will is portrayed as stand-offish and arrogant. Will turns into this absolutely swoonworthy character and OH! the tension. Together with everything, from the romance between Will and Francesca, the problems with Francesca's mother and family and Francesca's own growing up, I really just could not put this book down. I stayed up later than I should have, cried buckets and my heart felt squeezed and bruised from the amount of emotion in this book. A beautiful, beautiful story.

I'm sorry that this turned into such a gush-fest, but I absolutely adored Saving Francesca! I can't wait to read the sequel-of-sorts, The Piper's Son and any other book by Melina Marchetta!


  1. Fantastic review. I adore gush fest as I do so many of them ;)
    Do you think this would be a good book to suggest for someone with depression (a teen maybe)

  2. Emma - thanks. I sent you an email actually, but I think this one I would recommend to teenagers (and everyone else) to read as just a really great book to read. Francesca isn't dealing with the depression, just the effects of her mother's which has an impact on her entire family.

  3. I absolutely must buy this book! Thank you for the wonderful review.

  4. After that fantastic gush fest, how could I not want to read this. It truly, truly sounds like a wonderful read. Your reviews always have this capacity to draw me into the world that you're talking about. It makes me feel like I'm experiencing the book even before I've read it.

  5. Luisa - Oh, thanks :) I hope you love it as much as I did!

    Tammy - Another fabulous comment from you! Thank you so much for saying such nice things.


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)