Like before, better than before



From the first line of this beautiful novel, “the other woman” meets Elena, the narrator, who tells, eleven years later, a love story that ended long ago. This is Maria, whose husband Pietro abandoned her for her. Elena had imagined Maria old, she discovers that she is still young and beautiful. Economist – Pietro was her professor at the university – Elena is interested above all in the facts, she wants, she says, ” go forward “.

If Cristina Comencini likes to analyze the evolution of feelings linked to societal changes, to the fractures between generations, she also knows how to subvert clichés – in this case the usual wife-husband-mistress trio –, digging into them to achieve the intimate, the unsaid thanks to the singularity of endearing characters. Maria, who lives in Rome, has long sought to meet her rival, who lives in Milan.

Between them a bond is forged made of collusion, questions about Pietro: Maria wants to find out what caused the failure of their relationship, Elena to know the man Maria is talking to her about and who does not look like the one she loves. . Convinced that knowing things makes it possible to free themselves from them, they confide in themselves that they had never told anyone. Isn’t Elena for Maria the Other Woman, with a capital letter? This fragile, complex, indecipherable Other surprises them both.

The past arises, very heavy, with the shadows of the parents against whom they were both constructed, and to whom they ended up resembling. Everything happens as if a destructive curiosity drew them towards a sort of tree of knowledge, towards suffering and misfortune, as if love did not stand the test of truth. On the account of the twenty years lived by Maria with Pietro, Elena dreams of an impossible start over with him as if the past had never existed: ” We are, she says, a chain of interlocking love stories and failures are shared with us. »

Pietro admits to having searched in vain for the young girl of yesteryear in Maria and dreamed of starting from scratch. A small health accident – ​​a “transient global amnesia” – made him regain it for a few moments. Or, rather, makes him discover another woman… A different pathology struck Francesco, the son of Maria and Pietro. Dyslexic, seeming unable to pursue studies, considered a cripple, he is also hypermnesic. Fixed on the history of his parents, he has not forgotten anything. Involuntarily, like the Exterminating Angel, he will turn lives upside down: “With Francesco, said Elena, I felt like I was walking down a street devastated by war, the ruins were piling up behind us…”

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