The Water of the Lake Is Never Sweet

L'acqua del lago non è mai dolce

Giulia Caminito

Literary Fiction

On behalf of: Spiegel & Grau

Winner of Premio Campiello 2021
Winner of Premio Strega Off 2021
Among the 5 finalists of Premio Strega 2021

Gaia was born into a troubled family: her mother, Antonia, had four children, the first at just seventeen by a good-for-nothing layabout, the others by construction worker Massimo, who was left in a wheelchair following an accident on site. They live on the outskirts of Rome in a twenty square metre room that Antonia snatched from the local addicts, and where her twin babies sleep in a cardboard box. She does all she can to give her family some hope, and manages to find them an apartment in a social housing development in Anguillara Sabazia, close to lake Bracciano, thirty kilometres from the city that chewed them up and spat them out.

This hostile, enigmatic town is where Gaia spends her youth, every day facing a world that has nothing to offer her, will never accept her and which she will do nothing to be accepted by. Here, she will find love and friendship, but without truly embracing them, she will feel the weight of expectations, lies and betrayal, jealousy, misunderstanding and loneliness. From a life spent striving to be “no less” than anyone else, as her mother adamantly insists, to chase after an impossible redemption.

As time goes on, Gaia finds it is increasingly difficult to make the best of a bad situation. While Antonia makes every effort to bear the weight of an entire wall under collapse, Gaia wants to break it down, stamp on it, smash it into sharp little pieces that are
dangerous even to her.

Giulia Caminito tells the story of an uncomfortable reality, invisible to the majority of contemporary writers, and she pulls no punches. Gaia and her family are living in poverty – white trash, some would call them – in the darkest backwater, with no hope of
escape or redemption.

But this revelation is not the only driving force behind this novel. Its bold, forthright prose reflects the protagonist’s disturbing, unanswered questions, and lays bare the hypocrisies of an inert and twisted society as if tearing through the canvas of a landscape.


“Profound and fresh, brutal and tender at once, Caminito strikes with her sharp look at society and shows the deepest scars of poverty and humiliation.” – Il Foglio

“A book that talks about anger, adolescence, chasing dreams. And it gets under your skin.” – Marie Claire

“An intense story written with an elegant style and an accurate language that exudes the author’s ability to tell the complexity of our ways of coping with this world.” – La Sicilia