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Book Review: Me, You by Erri De Luca

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Me, You by Erri De Luca is a fictional coming of age story of a boy at the end of World War II. The book was previously released as Sea of Memory.

Me, You by Erri De Luca is set in a small Italian fishing village after World War II ended, in the 1950s. The story takes place over one summer where the boy explores his new-found feelings of love lost and the grim realities of war.

The author tells the story with sensitivity and depth. The other characters in the book give the narrative depth, mostly in answer to the curious boy’s questions. While we all love to read and discuss history, we often find that firsthand accounts are not easy to come by. The narrator of this book finds that as well. Questioning the village men about the war, not being satisfied by the answers, he discovers that instead of answering they simply clam up.

For our narrator, the war is history, for the adults the war provokes horrendous memories of serving in the Italian Army which was controlled by the Nazis. Some adults managed to avoid committing war crimes and atrocities, but others are still bogged by guilt doing things they were ordered to do against their consciences, others helped those who they were supposed to oppress.

As the boy hears more stories, the angrier he gets at the Germans. When the narrator befriends a Jewish girl, a holocaust survivor, his anger gets harsher. Caia, or Chaia, is attracted to him as well, and as the friendship deepens we learn more about Caia’s deep secrets.

The story revolves around the life in the village, the relationship between the boy and his girl, the fishermen, family members and the atmosphere. The village is another character in this novella and, like the rest of the human characters, is being treated with respect and sensitivity.

As Me, You is a coming-of-age story, the boy’s anger, combined with his newfound love, brings him to a crossroads. But whichever way he turns, his life will never be the same again.

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