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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Aldabra or the Tortoise who Loved Shakespeare
by Silvana Gandolfi
Age Range: 12+
"The way to outsmart death, Elisa dear, is to turn into something else!" Nonna Eia tells her ten-year-old granddaughter, Elisa. Aldabra is an engaging fantasy set in modern-day Venice. Elisa frequently visits her rather eccentric, grandmother – who has a flair for the dramatic and a passion for Shakespeare – where she lives alone by the seawall and paints in a shed nearby. Elisa brings her food, listens to Nonna's stories and recites Shakespeare with Nonna prompting. Elisa begins to wonder why her mother never visits. When she learns the cause of the major rift between them –
that her mother once had Nonna Eia committed to a mental institution because of her erratic behaviour – Elisa is determined not to let this happen again.
Nevertheless, Elisa is totally unprepared for Nonna’s metamorphosis as she slowly begins to change. She loses her soft skin and the ability to stand upright, slowly transforming into an Geochelonegigantea, an endangered species of giant tortoise that lives for more than 150 years. Keeping Nonna’s transformation secret and protecting her during her hibernation presents something of a challenge to Elisa. Danger threatens when a mysterious man, who Elisa chatted to on the Internet, displays an eagerness to know the details of Nonna's transformation and where she is located. The wintry Venetian high waters also threaten to drown her grandmother while she hibernates and Elisa has to find a solution. "All's well that ends well," as is fitting for a Shakespeare-inspired story with Nonna Eia going to the exotic island of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean, where she has dreamed of spending the rest of her life with her own kind.
A gentle whimsical tale combined with some very odd and magical moments. The edges between sanity and craziness are finely balanced, but it is Elisa's devotion to her grandmother is the emphatically human element that grounds this magical tale in reality.