Book Title: The Story of Anna P as Told by
Author: Penny Busetto
Publisher: Jacana Media
Year of publication: 2014
Reviewer: Adeniyi Taiwo Kunnu
Penny Busetto, perhaps unknowingly touches on the very core of man’s humanity.
Although, she sets this fictive work on course with a female protagonist, there are copious layers of what constitute the mould of all men. She demonstrates an understanding of the living, the dead and the unborn.
Life according to deep researches and knowledge divides stages of phenomenal experiences in three major parts viz: Morning, Afternoon and Night.
The Story of Anna P as Told by Herself unveils its contents thus, Book of the Present, Book of Memory and Book of the Future.
The realities of our present cannot be argued as being products of the crystallisation of the ‘arguments and counterarguments’ of the past, being either veiled or left penetrable depending on what side the ‘possessor’ of the memory wishes to put into public glare.
The present described, the past reflected but the future could not be left hanging as it is either the juncture and pathway to solace or the harbinger of impediments.
Anna P’s existence on a cold and sparsely occupied rocky top by the sea spells a situation, which suggests that one may be in hiding from something or that life and its attendant challenges have pushed one to the precipice.
The ‘Cruel Island’, as one may choose to call it, is devoid of love and warmth which, perhaps, could have propped up Anna’s intention to stay, even if ‘temporary yet lengthy’.
The pervasive monotony of her life is heightened by the temporariness of her teaching job. It may be hopeful to be employed on a temporary basis at the outset, but when days crawl into weeks; and months roll into another and before long, two decades stuck in one’s throat.
“The local school needed an English teacher and I was asked to stand in until the ministry in Rome appointed someone.
But that was 20 years ago. I have lived all these years in uncertainty, knowing only that any day the real teacher may arrive.”
If work is void of reprieve, her home equally defies the thought about charity beginning from there; with the conditions given by Signora Bruna (her landlady), which further entrenches her loneliness and gloom.
On page 5, the rules unfold thus: No television or radio No noise after 8pm and before 7am One hot bath a week.
One cold shower a day Rent to be paid strictly one month in advance on the first day of the month.
Thirty days’ notice required. Needful to state is the immediacy of constraints to her thoughts.
Symbolically, one’s shelter should at least represent peace, but being mindful of the various regulations ordinarily replaces cheer with jeer as if her life were replete with errors.
Despite her aloneness and loneliness, she demonstrates the quality of an impermeable fabric, even when water is poured over its surface. S
he lives in the house and daily for two decades and counting, teaches English at the local primary school in Ponza.
It is said that a silver lining crosses the sky no matter how dark, and this is definitely the case with Anna, who finds consolation in the resilient association with Ugo, her pupil.
He perhaps, through innate perception, realises the synonyms of their problems and as such, the attraction to his teacher.
While Ugo’s uncle and aunt makes a mess of the child’s life at home, Leonardo and Matteo, his fellow pupils bully the normalcy out of his already miserable childhood.
An unsettling happening however occurs in ‘The Present’ when, as she makes to leave school for home on one of her routines, Signor Capi, the principal, hands her a letter from Ispetorre Lupo, requesting that she makes an appearance at polizia di stato, Questura di Roma.
The tentacles of the present may have dug up the past she very so often forgets or that she is willing never to remember.
Why would the police be looking for her? What could they possibly be looking for?
These are not mere rhetoric because ‘Her Memory’, which is her past, becomes a subject in the bull’s eye.
Recollection of abusive experiences make up the composition of Anna’s past.
As against what was initially believed that she hails from England, the retrospections in South Africa, her original homeland makes the taste buds feel tingly and the mien rattled due to numerous unsavoury details.
The first of her downward spiral started, yet again, at home.
A young Anna became deflowered by her father, who later got pushed to his death by her, having drunk himself stuporous, relentlessly abusing without the least remorse.
The line of abuse continued when a cousin named Luke stayed at their home while in the university.
He took advantage of her love for books; thus opening her up to the many ills which later characterize her life.
She falls further into severe depression and mental problems, owing to her father’s death, keeping hush and suffering an implosion from the weight of the repeated abuse suffered and her father’s death by her hands.
On page 20, the author writes enters Anna P’s mind: “For a long time nobody notices. You can get by on nods and shakes of the head….
She can of course understand and thoughts still course through her brain using words.
It isn’t that she has lost the ability. It is just that language as communication has become impossible, too painful, too dangerous….”
She just knows that she feels unsafe and ashamed, so she withdraws to a place deep inside herself