Sweet Dreams Little One Book Review & Giveaway

Sweet Dreams, Little One took me on an emotional ride from start to finish. Reliving the pain as I empathised with what it is like to lose a mother too soon.  Following Massimo’s agonising journey  into, and through, adulthood. Funny, emotional, insightful – this book had me laughing, crying, sympathising and reflecting from start to finish.

sweet dreams little one

A quick read, whose pages you will soon be flicking over. I like how it’s broken down in small parts with short chapters, meaning that I was easily able to fit it into my life without losing the thread. It also made it easier to put down when emotions were running high. Massimo writes with touches of humour and light-relief  from the serious matter,

 “I grew up thinking the State was a manufacturer of biros.”

“once I spread glue all over a bus seat, but then I sat down on it myself.”

Right from the start we learn that Massimo, the protagonist, has lost his mother and had never filled her hopes and dreams of becoming a lawyer. Massimo clearly explained the never-ending journey of grief: Revealing to us his feelings of being abandoned and rejected; of fear, the denial, the feeling different, the anger, and betrayal. Observing when his mother’s things disappeared, and were replaced..The constant questioning of everything, the what ifs, the whys, including whether he was loved.

“Out of all the mothers there were in the world, how come mine had to die?”

Massimo Gramellini does an excellent job of creating sympathy for the protagonist. He does this through the use of language which reflects the innocence of the child. He addresses issues that any of us could face when losing a parent, but illustrated in such a way that you feel that you want to take away the pain for him, because Massimo is just so young.  The news of his mother’s death is broken to him by Baloo at Cubs, immediately sending out the message of just how young he is (Cubs are ages eight to ten years). The naivety when he talks about how his mother’s test results could have been better, if only he had the chance to show her how to copy the answers. The use of the word “mummy” when he says that he either wants her back or wants to join her in heaven:

“She’s my mummy, so either bring her back here or take me up there.”

Massimo talks about a maths problem when a little boy keeps on dropping his balls all over the place but keeps on walking as if nothing has happened. Sometimes I feel society wants us just to move on and forget things, as if nothing’s happened. To enjoy the life we have and not let the past get to us. But Massimo explains that would be easy if it were not for Belfagor, the demon inside.

sweet dreams little one

Belfagor is the grief that never lets go. When everyday situations stir those emotions connected with the grief he brings them back to the surface once again. Massimo explains that it was Belfagor making him too self-absorbed to think of others, or to see the world around him.

“I was too taken up in my own suffering to bother about his.”

Massimo feels that everything is about him and he is owed, like when he asked God to let his team score.

 “I didn’t want pity or special treatment: I just wanted to be loved.”

But he was unable to see that that was what he was doing at that time, which on reflection it seems that it is something he truly regrets, especially towards his father. He worked in Sarajevo and fought for a boy’s safety, but it was too late and he died. This is when he really began to think about living his life.

“If I’d have been capable of lifting my eyes and looking around me, I would have seen the world was full of much greater problems: wars, epidemics, floods.”

sweet dreams little one

We know from the start there is something that Massimo does not know about his mother’s death and even when I reached the point  when my superstitions were confirmed, it hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I could relate to Massimo’s mother as my own mother was also the oldest of five children, just like Giuseppina, and both had to take care of their siblings. Both mothers had their siblings always coming to them for advice. A picture is built up of his mother as a woman who did not deserve to die. Giuseppina was a good, decent woman. When the narrator delivers the powerful blow we are fully aware of why it happened, and why we cannot blame Giuseppina.

“She didn’t give expecting something in return – she just gave, without calculation, without reproach, without hope of reward.”

At the end of the book we are reminded that this is based on the author’s life. So enveloped in the story I had completely forgot that it was not completely fictional. I was moved to tears at how brave Massimo had been to risk criticism for his life and feelings, but glad he did because I am sure he has helped so many.

Critics I have seen say they do not have sympathy for the protagonist as an adult. I feel that this is because they do not understand him, as they have never been unfortunate enough to have encountered Belfagor themselves. The book seems to turn into a self-help book at the end, for all those who are suffering the same as Massimo. What he learns about his mother and how he finally comes to forgive her, and start living, is really insightful.

sweet dream little one

Available from Alma Books

Originally published in Italian, this international best seller has been translated into fourteen languages and sold over 1.2 million copies! A fantastic read and not only would I recommend it but I have TWO to giveaway!

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E: 24/04/2014

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I received a free copy of the book in order to review it, and 2 giveaway copies. All words and opinions are my own.

41 thoughts on “Sweet Dreams Little One Book Review & Giveaway”

  1. This book appeals to me because I now my own mum would like to read it. She sadly lost her own mum when she was just 12 years old. At the time she had an older sister aged 14 and a younger sister aged 10. So the three girls were brought up by their hard working father, who worked on the ship yards and never re-married. My mum often talks about her childhood and how she was often looked after my neighbours or aunts and uncles when her dad was at work. Apparently her mum had a heart problem and if she had been alive now and suffering, she would probably have had a heart transplant and lived – but in those days they did not have the technology.

  2. It sounds like a very honest and heart-warming book. I would love to read it and pass it to my mam to read, then we can discuss the book over a cup of tea 🙂

  3. Having read your review and chatted to you about this on Twitter it sounds like such a compelling book to read, I cannot begin to imagine losing my mum as a child, and my biggest fear these days is not being around long enough for my children, which I think is partly why I blog, so they have a piece of me if anything were to happen.

  4. I adore books, I am not fussy what I read as long as its a really good story, and reading about it, it seems the sort of book you would get lost in

  5. I’ve entered this giveaway for my wife, whose own mother passed away recently. I thought that reading this book may help her through this difficult time.

  6. The description gives the book a review of a really in depth and well thought out story. This would be fantastic to read 🙂 x

  7. i have read alot of true stories, i find them so inspirational and love to see how the authors come out the other side!


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