CHRONICLES FROM PARADISE, by Serena Dandini (Einaudi – November 2022)

Paradise, that of the afterlife, has often been imagined as Eden: a marvelous garden where luxuriant plants multiply by themselves by divine will.

But today, with faith in the supernatural fading more and more, and life being a breath moreover with chance always lurking, from what can we draw consolation?

Well, as long as we are on this earth we possess the mind, that is alive and real and through it we can create our small or large secular paradises that allow us to better bear our condition as humans.

Basically this is the idea that binds the episodes narrated in a digressive way by the always ironic and cultured Serena Dandini.

We must refer to this idea in order not to risk getting lost in the many episodes or being tempted to gloss over certain pages.

To read if you are girls of all ages, lovers of books and plants, interested in history, art, biography of various characters.

Because you won’t find a real plot in this book.

In what Dandini writes, I find myself almost completely so I’m a bit biased.

Although I have never owned gardens like you, I have had terraces which soon became crowded with vases and plants.

Among the disapproval of relatives (even my ancestors) I planted cuttings, discovered the birth of buds and buds always with the same amazement, learned that hydrangeas and plumbagos are never full of water, that rosemary takes care of itself but it asks for a lot of light. I moved heavy vases with the sole force of passion but that half hour spent like this on summer mornings has almost become a Zen ritual where all worries disappear in the moment.

If you have the above characteristics, you can retrace the lives of famous people, from the delightful Josephine Beauharnais to Christie

from the emblematic Monet to Nabokov.

And then you will discover little-known female figures who in distant times lived as nonconformists chasing that ELSEWHERE

where it seems that life is better, you will see how.

But earthly paradises are not always gardens they can be studies of butterflies (Nabokov), creations of works (Gaudí), of perfumes

(Catherine de’ Medici)…

However, overwhelmed by her passion for plants, the author makes a mistake: she attributes the incipit “The smell of bitter almonds…” to Florentino

Ariza instead of Dr. Urbino. Unforgivable.

However, we are grateful for the amount of botanical information provided.

If pure-breed theorists had observed and studied plant behavior in depth, their theories would have collapsed miserably.

And above all, we are grateful to her for having reaffirmed the immense power that the mind has in selecting and reworking the past, projecting itself into the

future, creating fantastic paradises starting from a dream.

Review by Ornella Panaro