What We Don't Know about Children by Simona Vinci

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A best-seller in Italy, where it sparked intense debate, Simona Vinci's first novel was awarded the prestigious Elsa Morante Prize and subsequently was acquired by publishers around the world. Clearly an accomplished and important book, it is also a profoundly disturbing one.

In a suburb of Bologna, three boys and two girls--ranging in age from ten to fifteen--enter the season of long summer days and the mysterious beauty of the cornfields surrounding the town. There, in an abandoned shack, they discover the excitement of being part of a group with its own rules and secrets. Normal kids who Rollerblade and play the same video games and Oasis and Alanis Morissette CDs that kids play everywhere, they come from normal families, their parents just as busy as most are these days. Although everyone assumes that someone will keep an eye on the kids--they're always playing out front in the parking lot, aren't they?--this assumption turns out to be false.

Tiring of familiar childish pastimes, these five ride bikes or scooters out to their clubhouse and awkwardly begin their sexual initiation, liberated by innocence and driven by natural curiosity. But this rite of passage is gradually perverted by images from the adult world; as these increase in creepiness and violence, inevitably the games these confused and powerless children play, mimicking desires not their own, become horrifyingly real.

Claustrophobic, mesmerizing and unflinching, What We Don't Know About Children is a brave exploration of eroticism and a harsh indictment of a society whose dark, disturbing aspects leave that most fragile, vulnerable blessing--childhood--forever at risk.

About Simona Vinci

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Simona Vinci was born in 1970 and lives near Bologna. What We Don't Know About Children has been translated into eight languages.
Published June 6, 2000 by Knopf. 176 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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The simple language and confident pace give no indication of the shockingly violent event at the center of this story, but Vinci's masterful sense of foreboding creates an intense anticipation of a crime that unravels as slowly and transparently as a tainted dream.

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