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Wait Until Spring, Bandini by John Fante

Updated: Jun 30

I was not familiar with the works of John Fante until a friend of Ellen’s (you know who you are) said his books were among his favorites. So, I began with his first in his series about an Italian immigrant and his family.

The Bandini family live in Colorado during the 1920s. Fante was born in Denver in 1909, so the author is writing about a time and place he knows well.

Svevo Bandini is the father, a mason and bricklayer. He’s out of work since there is little demand for his skills in the winter with snow covering everything. I assumed the title of the novel was drawn from that situation, but I was wrong. It has to do with his oldest son, fourteen-year-old Arturo, who’s a baseball fan, waiting for spring.

The other members of the family are Arturo’s younger brothers, August and Federico, and his mother Maria.

There are several themes and dramas in the family written in beautiful prose from each member’s point of view. The family faces severe financial hardships, but Svevo, the father, disappears for days on end leading up to Christmas. It is a mystery that tortures Maria, especially after she spots her husband riding in a car with the rich widow in town. That takes us down a path casting Svevo as a scoundrel, but we learn later we may draw the wrong conclusions.

That is only one theme of the book, at 266 pages, a rather short read. Others are Arturo’s coming of age (He’s smitten by a girl in his class), the social isolation as Italian immigrants, and the influence of Catholicism in the family.

I thought of the social themes of John Steinbeck in Fante’s writing. Svevo says, “The banker who owned that house was one of his worst enemies. The mental image of that banker’s face made his heart pound with a hunger to consume itself in violence. Helmer, the banker. The dirt of the earth.” I could just see the banker’s taking the land from the Okies in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

However, Fante is more lyrical in his prose than Steinbeck.

Like Ellen’s friend, I’m becoming a Fante fan.

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