Book review

The Complete Little World of Don Camillo

The Complete Little World of Don Camillo
Read date: Sept 2018

The Complete Little World of Don Camillo by Giovannino Guareschi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A heap of bite-sized delights!

I hadn’t read any of the individual Don Camillo books, but my wife had read several of them in her youth, and spoke very fondly of them. So I bought this for her birthday, and then read it myself – and they are entirely delightful!

There are logically five books in this collection, covering the period from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, a period in which Italy steered itself from a broken-down post-war economy to a wild and swinging destination for fashionistas. And these stories focus on Don Camillo, the priest of a small town in the valley of the river Po, and Peppone, the leader of the local communist party.

The stories centre around the ongoing love/hate relationship between Don Camillo and Peppone. Both love their town, but fight madly over what the best path to its success might be. The characters evolve beautifully over the years, and other characters make regular appearances, so you get to know them too. Also important are Don Camillo’s mental conversations with Jesus, who admonishes him when he errs, and tweaks his nose when he gets too big for his boots.

Each individual story is short – 5-10 pages – but charming. Many are built around some aspect of the small town life, and almost all are driven by the political tensions between the communists and religion. Indeed, my favourite set of stories was the “Comrade Don Camillo” book of stories, as Don Camillo inveigles his way onto a sightseeing trip around Soviet Russia, organised by the communist party in Italy.

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