Introduction:Hi, my name is Dirk, I’m living in Belgium and my native language is Dutch.Learning languages is one of my passions, and at the moment I’m studying Italian and English. That’s why I decided to read an Italian novel in the original language and write the corresponding book review in English. I’ve only recently started reading fiction, in fact I’ve started reading the Harry Potter saga first.My book review is rather detailed, so for those who want to read it, beware, because there’s a spoiler alert!Synopsis:It is the beautiful and moving story of Cesare, a widower, who lives in Naples, Italy.Book review:Cesare Annunziata is a seventy seven year old widower, who was born and raised in Naples, Italy.He lives alone after the death of his wife Catarina, in the Vomero quarter, a hilly and heavily urbanized area in the center of the city. He has two grown-up children, a daughter Sveva and a son called Dante.Cesare has a tendency to say exactly what he thinks of everything, even when he knows he shouldn’t.Looking back at his life so far, he finds that for exactly seventy two years and 111 days, he hasn’t achieved any noteworthy accomplishments in his life. He is full of regrets for all the mistakes and poor choices he has made in the past, and also for not having challenged himself to go beyond common limitations. This is the reason why he has become a rather lonely, cynical man. He hates talking to others when he’s waiting in a row at the supermarket for example. So, he decides that it is time now to put all the past behind him, to fully enjoy life and to make the best of the years he has left. That’s why the book is called “the temptation of being happy”.He also doesn’t like rude and impolite people and he doesn’t like to walk long distances. Because his driver’s license is expired he usually grabs a taxi to travel to different parts of the city. Cesare can afford it. You have to be aware of Napolitan taxi drivers, they can be rude or impolite at times. One of the tricks he then often uses, is to pretend being a retired police officer, or a retired army officer. Most of the time this works fine, and at the end he doesn’t have to pay for the taxi ride. That’s one of the advantages of being older, he always says, you finally have earned some respect.He also gets easily upset if people don’t listen to his advice. He always has been someone offering multiple solutions for one’s problems. This was also the main cause of many disagreements with is wife Catarina, who passed away five years ago. She always wanted someone to listen to her, not someone to give her plenty of advice. He met her at work, when he started as an accountant at Volpe, a commercial company, after a recommendation by one of his older brothers. When she got pregnant, she had to quit her job. The following years she devoted herself to raising their children while he kept working as an accountant for the next 40 years until his retirement. His wife was responsible for their education, while Cesare was more like a father from a distance.Even now, he has little contact with is two grown-up children. In fact, showing affection hasn’t been his strongest point. But because he decided to finally become happy, he also wants others to be happy, including his own children. He starts by giving them advice, something that they are absolutely not used to of course. So this turns out to be the first challenge on his road to happiness.His daughter Sveva, the elder one, has become a lawyer. She is married to Diego and they have a son, Federico. Sometimes he takes his grandson to his daughter’s office after school. Her office is in the Spanish quarters (“Quartieri Spagnoli”), a poor area of the city where the Napolitan dialect is stronger than anywhere else.He strongly believes that is daughter has made the wrong choices in life. First of all by studying for a law degree. Next by working way too hard as a lawyer, and finally by chosing a boring husband, which is of course Cesare’s opinion. He is convinced that she forgets to embrace life and that she has a very bad work-life balance. He will never understand why she tries to solve disputes for her clients every single day, because he has never been able to see the beauty in something ugly. He also has never shared this opinion with her before, she always preferred to discuss these “private” matters with her mother, Catarina. And usually she doesn’t like his advice, because they always tend to argue whenever they meet. They both have a strong personality. She is the one that resembles her father the most, though on the outside but soft on the inside. On top of this, he also suspects that his daughter is having an affair with an older man. Being a father, you notice these things. This is the second challenge on his road to happiness.Just like many other elder people, he doesn’t sleep much at night. If he cannot stay in bed, he usually gets up and goes to his kitchen to drink some beer or wine and to smoke a cigarette. This is something he really shouldn’t do, because three years ago he suffered from a heart attack. His doctor told him that it happened due to his hectic lifestyle: smoking, drinking, too little sleep and an unhealthy diet. When he knows that one of his children is going to visit him, he always hides his pack of cigarettes, and his bottle of wine.In the flat next door lives his neighbour Eleonora Vitagliano, an older woman who has literally devoted her life to homeless cats. Her apartment is a real cat shelter. That’s why he calls her “the cat lady”. The only problem is that her flat, because of all the cats, doesn’t smell very good, so Cesare avoids to pay her a visit at all cost. She is also hard of hearing, so he practically has to shout whenever he meets her in the hallway. Her only relative is the daughter of her brother, who wants her to sell the apartment, because her niece ran into money problems. Cesare accepts to help her to avoid selling the apartment, because that’s where she wants to stay for the rest of her life.Recently Cesare, and Eleonora have new neighbours, a younger couple in their thirties. They find it a little bit odd, because the rest of the residents in the building are older people. Eleonora learnt that her name is Emma. Whenever Cesare meets Emma in the hallway, he notices a kind of sadness in her eyes. Unfortunately, after a while, because of the noises they both hear when they are awake at night, they suspect that she is being mistreated. Especially because the next day she is wearing dark sunglasses, and the fact that she also starts showing other signs of abuse.He wants to discuss this unpleasant news with his 80-year old neighbour, friend and ex-colleague Marino, who lives downstairs. He is the only older person in the building in possession of a modern computer, mainly used by his grandson Orazio who prefers to study at his grandfather’s apartment after school. They’ve known each other for almost 40 years now, and Cesare can discuss really anything with him. After the death of his wife, Marino hasn’t been out of his apartment for years.Cesare, Marino and Eleonora team up to try to help Emma and decide to write the violent neighbour a letter, meant as a warning. This is a real adventure for them, because they are not used to this kind of excitement. This is the third challenge on his road to happiness.Then there is private nurse Rosanna, who drops by every morning to administer his daily medical injections. Suddenly, in an attempt to become happier, he asks her out for dinner after all these years. So they finally get to know each other better. He learns that she is in her fifties and that her son recently has been fired without any reason or notice. Because of this, her son is having a rough time with three children and a wife to support. Cesare offers his help and hopes that his daughter Sveva, being a lawyer, will accept this case. But now he is afraid to tell his children about this new relationship, not sure how they will react. This is the fourth challenge on his road to happiness.His son Dante, who lives in Chiaia, a neighbourhood on the seafront, is the owner of an art gallery in the center of Naples. Sometimes he visits his father unannounced with a bag filled with healthy foods. Cesare really hates this kind of food and gives it all with pleasure to his new neighbour Emma. One day Dante invited his father and sister to dinner so he could present his new friend, artist Leo Perotti. Finally he has the courage tell everyone that he is gay, which of course Cesare suspected already for a very long time. Being a father, you notice these things. Following this revelation, Cesare gives a unique, unexpectedly beautiful speech about how much he loves and treasures his family.One of Eleonora’s cats, Fluffy, always escapes from the flat next door, and keeps Cesare company during his sleepless nights. Because it’s a black cat with red eyes, he decided to give her the nickname “Belzebù” which translates to Beelzebub in English, the Hebrew name for a demon. They eat and drink together and he can talk to Belzebù for hours. Animals really possess therapeutic powers!Because Cesare has a lot of time to think about the past he also remembers the other two women he once loved. First there was Anna, a school friend, who was one year older. After their first kiss he was convinced that they had to get married, which was of course a silly thought. Next there was Daria, with whom he had a platonic love. She was a novel writer with a low self esteem who definitely needed his support back then. She was also the one who encouraged him to marry Catarina and to start working for the Volpe company. She always told him to look for opportunities, and that the things you desire really can happen if you would only have a little patience. After being married, Cesare tried to stay in contact with her each time she launched a new book.In the mean time Cesare slowly becomes a personal confidant to Emma, and eventually this begins to fill a void inside of him, he didn’t even know he was missing. When her husband is at work, she starts to visit him at his apartment, telling him bits and pieces of her life. It’s in her presence that he slowly becomes the better version of himself. He offers her a shoulder to cry on and decides to help her, which turns out to be a very difficult task. This is the next challenge on his road to happiness.The rest of the story becomes an emotional rollercoaster, with a very beautiful ending.Conclusion:I loved reading this novel, because it’s the touching and heartbreaking story about true love, family, relationships, friendship, regrets and hope. The main lesson to remember is that anyone can change his/her role in life at any time, in order to try to become happier and to try to make others feel happy too. There’s even a certain charm about the main character of Cesare.This book is packed with beautiful philosophical quotes, which I love:• “La vita è una scala da affrontare scalino dopo scalino per giungere infine all’eden””Life is a staircase which has to be climbed step by step in order to reach paradise”.• “mi piace chi combatte ogni giorno per essere felice””I like someone who fights everyday to be happy”.• “Nessuno può essere salvato, se non lo vuole””nobody can be salved if they don’t want to”• “Le cose che desideri capitavano davvero, bisogna solo saper attendere””The things you desire can really happen if you only have a little patience”

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