Disappointing Pancakes in La Ragazza di Bube (En: Bebo’s Girl)

La ragazza di Bube by Carlo Cassola


Genre: General Fiction, Classics
Author: Carlo Cassola
Published: 1960
Publisher: Mondadori
Pages: 219 {paperback}

Originally posted on Goodreads

This review is spoiler-free until I state otherwise

Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

Well . . . yeah. The great pleasure of this book was reading it (and FINISHING it) in Italian. There is nothing that shouts CONQUERED like finishing a book in another language, *waves victory flag*. It was great fun to pick apart and class discussions (I read this for uni) were always great fun – mostly because everyone argued over the love interest. There was noticeable character development (I err to say “good”), but that’s where the positivity ends for me. I didn’t like Mara, I didn’t like her decisions, and the plot was overall lacking. It was like a disappointing pancake. I have a hunch I *might’ve* enjoyed this more in English because I’m sure a lot went over my head with it being in Italian – but, for now, this shall simmer on a two-star rating.

La Ragazza di Bube

This was a very interesting book, even though I didn’t like it all that much. Set in Italy in a small town, the story covers time from 1944 (end of WWII) to the late ‘50s. It’s a romantic story following Mara who’s a young (and somewhat annoying) girl.

The book has political motives, portraying tensions between the Communists (which Mara & Bube are) and Fascists. If you’re unfamiliar with this history in Italy, then it’s likely the nuances of the book will go over your head. Allow me to fill you in.

Italy has a pretty messy political history. It didn’t even become unified as a country with an official language until 1871 — less than 200 years ago! During WWII, Mussolini was the fascist leader of the country and Italy fought the war allied with Hitler. When this book takes places, Americans are still in the process of liberating the country at the start and there was a call for a communist leadership. So there’s enormous prejudice against fascists in pro-communism towns such the setting of this book.

Italian Read by a Native English Speaker

Reading this in another language obviously had its challenges and meant that there was bound to be things hat I missed entirely. So pleased bear that in mind when considering my opinion.

If you are wondering from a bilingual reading perspective (that’s a new term I just bluffed): this was a difficult read at times. I’m not 100% fluent in Italian and have only briefly practiced with Italians in Italy, myself. So as a first novel of this calibre I found the vocab somewhat confusing and there were some colloquialisms that took me a while to understand. But I still did understand it. So challenge yourself and see if you can get through this book!


My main problems with this book are as follows:

1) The plot was hugely disappointing. I expected so much more to actually happen but in the end it was a basic romance with political intrigue and a buck load of bad decisions.

2) I really disliked Mara’s character. I could not understand her motives for making the decisions that she did. It felt like she was trying so hard to prove a point to her cousin and family and then the entire situation just spiralled out of control. Big time. She also came across as very young, naive, and proud. Case in point, she was just not someone I could relate to on any level and I wanted to smack her for not thinking about the reality of things.

The characters in general I found to be very two dimensional and even the loveable Stefano irritated me in the end (but again, I suspect this is down to my translation. He seemed terribly clingy sometimes. Like, cool down there mate.) I think that it was the bad combination of me finding neither plot nor characters agreeable that caused me to be disappointed in the end.


Some positives? It was actually an enjoyable read and was refreshing that for once I didn’t get along with the protagonist. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to guess what Mara would do and suss out the strength of her character. If anything, I must give it to her that she proved to be very strong, independent and loyal. Which are all excellent qualities; she just made the wrong decisions again. And again. And again.

I would frequently find myself venting to a fellow peer over the injustices, contradictions and elements of the plot. All of which were often direct consequences of something Mara decided to do. In this sense, I think that I can whole-heartedly say that the book was 100% successful in initiating conversation and debate.


The real sticking point for me was Bube — and also Mara’s decision to stand up for him.

But I can’t discuss this anymore without giving spoilers — so if you haven’t read this then skip down to the summary.

I was angry at Mara that she could just forgive him for murdering a defenceless boy. The fact that he had no qualms over this at all irked me. There was literally no excuse for what he did. I believe Bube to be an inexperienced and weak character — the very opposite to Mara. This was essentially what brought the book to its knees for me.

The Film (continued spoilers)

I also watched the film after finishing the book. I thought that it was an excellent book to film adaptation. There were a number of aspects that I flat-out preferred in the movie. These included scenes such as Bube and Mara actually having sex when they were in hiding. Even though this is a relatively minor feature in the film, I felt like it solidified their relationship – at this point in the film I was convinced that they did love each other. In the book, Mara’s feelings felt more like a fixation on an abstract goal.


Overall, this just wasn’t the book for me. I really wanted to like it but just found that I didn’t agree with too many parts of the book. I’m proud of myself for getting through a heavily politically influenced book in Italian and I can’t wait to test my language skills and read more books in Italian like this!

View all my reviews


buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery


 You might also like . . .

If you like war stories with a female protagonist left behind because of the war but desperately romantic, Poppy Day is for you.

If you’re looking for a love story told with the backdrop of WWI, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is for you.

If you’re looking for a love story that is set against the backdrop of war (Civil War) that inspires the female protagonist to do something drastic, I Shall Be Near to You is for you.

Have you read this? What did you think?

Share your thoughts below!

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~


4 thoughts on “Disappointing Pancakes in La Ragazza di Bube (En: Bebo’s Girl)

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