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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

At the End of a Dull Day

Massimo Carlotto

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Title: At the End of a Dull Day
Author: Massimo Carlotto
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 183 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: At the End of a Dull Day - US
At the End of a Dull Day - UK
At the End of a Dull Day - Canada
At the End of a Dull Day - India
Alla fine di un giorno noioso - Italia
  • Italian title: Alla fine di un giorno noioso
  • Translated by Antony Shugaar

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a bit brutal -- and very calculated -- but nicely satisfying

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The title may be: At the End of a Dull Day, but this is the kind of novel that, of course, describes anything but dull days. The narrator and protagonist is Giorgio Pellegrini, the lowlife from The Goodbye Kiss; as someone will remind him along the way here: "you're sick and dangerous, a loose cannon in a system that has very different rules". But Giorgio has been playing by those socially accepted rules for over a decade now: rehabilitated -- and helped all along the way by local lawyer (and parliamentarian) Sante Brianese -- he's got a thriving business based on his restaurant, La Nena. True, the 'thriving' part of the business has more to do with his slightly less savory (and legal) side-businesses -- La Nena itself is a bit of a money-pit in these harder times -- but with Brianese making it the establishment where many find it prudent and helpful to see and be seen it's something Giorgio can be proud of -- "the calling card that gave me a respected status in society".
       Of course, as Giorgio realizes just a bit too late:

Doing my best to be an upright and honest citizen for eleven years had made me blind, foolish, and defenseless.
       Brianese more or less rips him off for his (impressive) life-savings, and there's little that he thinks Giorgio can do about it. He's wrong, of course -- apparently forgetting Giorgio's background and history. As Giorgio reminds him: "You can't even imagine how good I am at the work I do ..." -- and he doesn't mean running the restaurant.
       When Giorgio pushes back, Brianese ups the ante by getting some Mafiosi involved -- they're happy to essentially take over La Nena and use it to launder their money, with Giorgio a salaried front-man (without much of a future, he quickly recognizes). Giorgio needs a way out -- and if he starts out unsure of exactly what to do ("I had no plan, and the ideas in my head were fuzzy at best") he soon has a pretty good idea.
       Giorgio isn't the kind of person you'd want to know, but at this fictional distance there's a certain appeal to him. He is one hell of a control freak: married, he controls every aspect of his wife's life, from her exercise regimen to the food she's served at the restaurant, down to her routine for having sex with him. He doesn't take well to independent thought, or circumstances out of his control, and what he's after once the Mafia has stepped in is returning everything more or less to the way it was. Which he is willing to do at pretty much all cost. It makes for a disturbing but also amusing case of a man with little conscience, a great deal of determination, and a clear idea of how things should be done setting things ... right again. Even if this right has a lot of wrong to it. As for those who pay a price along the way -- he can easily shrug them off as the cost of doing business: he can't work himself up to feel too guilty about a corpse or two.
       Yes, At the End of a Dull Day has some horrific brutality, and Giorgio's peculiar charm doesn't make him very sympathetic, but it's still a surprisingly enjoyable romp. For one, there's the peculiar honor among thieves (and worse) observed here. There's also the fact that Giorgio isn't out to wreak absolute vengeance. Yes, he needs to get his head out of that noose he finds his in -- but he only destroys lives as far as he has to. Yes, that means a couple of more or less innocent fellow-travelers are sacrificed, but as long as he gets his money, and his old lifestyle as happy host of La Nena back, Giorgio is willing to limit the scale of retribution.
       At the End of a Dull Day unfolds and then resolves itself very satisfyingly. There's ugliness here -- the treatment of women, especially, top to bottom (a lot of women get treated very badly here) -- and some quick but horrible violence, but this is a very solid noir thriller, and very good (if slightly queasy-making) fun. One of Carlotto's better works.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 April 2013

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At the End of a Dull Day: Reviews: Massimo Carlotto: Other books by Massimo Carlotto under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Massimo Carlotto is a popular Italian author.

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