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The Natural Disorder of Things

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Claudio Fratta is a garden designer at the height of his career; a naturally solitary man, a tender, playful companion to his nephews, and a considerate colleague. But under his amiable exterior simmers a quiet rage, and a desire to punish the Mafioso who bankrupted his father and ruined his family. And when an enigmatic, alluring woman becomes entangled in Claudio's life Claudio Fratta is a garden designer at the height of his career; a naturally solitary man, a tender, playful companion to his nephews, and a considerate colleague. But under his amiable exterior simmers a quiet rage, and a desire to punish the Mafioso who bankrupted his father and ruined his family. And when an enigmatic, alluring woman becomes entangled in Claudio's life after a near-fatal car crash, his desire for her draws him ever closer to satisfying that long-held fantasy of revenge.


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Claudio Fratta is a garden designer at the height of his career; a naturally solitary man, a tender, playful companion to his nephews, and a considerate colleague. But under his amiable exterior simmers a quiet rage, and a desire to punish the Mafioso who bankrupted his father and ruined his family. And when an enigmatic, alluring woman becomes entangled in Claudio's life Claudio Fratta is a garden designer at the height of his career; a naturally solitary man, a tender, playful companion to his nephews, and a considerate colleague. But under his amiable exterior simmers a quiet rage, and a desire to punish the Mafioso who bankrupted his father and ruined his family. And when an enigmatic, alluring woman becomes entangled in Claudio's life after a near-fatal car crash, his desire for her draws him ever closer to satisfying that long-held fantasy of revenge.

30 review for The Natural Disorder of Things

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Claudio Fratta is a landscape and garden designer who likes to get his hands dirty. Prior to the beginning of The Natural Disorder of Things he witnesses a murder at night in a deserted grocery store parking lot. A man he is watching is run over by a white van. Seconds later, another car drives over the fallen man, finishing the job. Claudio follows the car, which in a short while careens out of control and off the road. Claudio rescues the injured woman from behind the wheel, takes her to hospi Claudio Fratta is a landscape and garden designer who likes to get his hands dirty. Prior to the beginning of The Natural Disorder of Things he witnesses a murder at night in a deserted grocery store parking lot. A man he is watching is run over by a white van. Seconds later, another car drives over the fallen man, finishing the job. Claudio follows the car, which in a short while careens out of control and off the road. Claudio rescues the injured woman from behind the wheel, takes her to hospital emergency, and leaves her there, never learning her name. Five months later he receives a call from a woman, who identifies herself as Elisabetta Renal, asking him to design a garden for her and her husband. Intrigued by her voice, which sounds like the woman he rescued, he agrees to meet and discuss the job. The story that develops from this point is (somewhat like a garden) surprising, compelling, and occasionally meandering. A lot of space is devoted to Claudio’s back story, his complex and tragic family history. But the back story is necessary as it is here that the key to everything is to be found. Andrea Canobbio’s fifth novel (and first to be made available in English) is something of a hybrid, sitting on the fence between contemporary literary fiction and noirish murder mystery. Throughout, the writing is lush and atmospheric (Abigail Asher’s fluid translation from the Italian is to be commended). Undeniably, there are times when events strain credibility, but it’s probably a matter of opinion whether or not this in any way diminishes Canobbio’s accomplishment. Some minor flaws aside, a strong argument can be made that The Natural Disorder of Things succeeds in telling its tale of revenge and star-crossed love in an exceedingly entertaining manner.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    a rambling plot but I really liked the narrator and his idiosyncratic family and past as well as his simple to start but getting sort of complicated present the blurb above gives an idea about what the storyline of the novel, and while dramatic things happen both in its present and are recounted from the past, they are somewhat underplayed as Claudio's fascination with Elisabetta Renal, the woman she meets by chance in a weird event, her unusual personal situation entangled in money, drama and po a rambling plot but I really liked the narrator and his idiosyncratic family and past as well as his simple to start but getting sort of complicated present the blurb above gives an idea about what the storyline of the novel, and while dramatic things happen both in its present and are recounted from the past, they are somewhat underplayed as Claudio's fascination with Elisabetta Renal, the woman she meets by chance in a weird event, her unusual personal situation entangled in money, drama and possible crime, contrasted with Claudio's complicated family past and seemingly simple present take center stage of the novel and ultimately subordinate most everything a very apt title reflecting the strangeness of life, chance encounters, paths taken or not taken... overall excellent stuff if you do not look for a plot driven book or for a neat novel, but for a quirky narrator and other fascinating people interacting in the strange ways of life

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Though this book was reviewed as a crime novel in the New York Times, and though its plot does include at least one crime, the novel doesn't read like most genre fiction. It is a stylish, witty, allusive, and often intriguingly murky tale of guilt, silence, and obsession. The story begins when Claudio, a middle-aged garden designer, witnesses a homicide in a late-night supermarket parking lot and feels compelled to follow a mysterious woman who flees the scene. Months later, she contacts him abo Though this book was reviewed as a crime novel in the New York Times, and though its plot does include at least one crime, the novel doesn't read like most genre fiction. It is a stylish, witty, allusive, and often intriguingly murky tale of guilt, silence, and obsession. The story begins when Claudio, a middle-aged garden designer, witnesses a homicide in a late-night supermarket parking lot and feels compelled to follow a mysterious woman who flees the scene. Months later, she contacts him about redoing the garden at her luxurious villa. As Claudio's infatuation deepens, he slowly pieces together a picture of who this woman really is and how her past and his own are connected. He also comes to understand why he has been unable to speak to anyone about the night that his brother had died decades before. The novel's humorous family scenes, surrealistic touches, and ambivalence regarding Claudio's agency add depth and complexity to a story that is much more than a murder mystery.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pat Steely

    Interesting read. The book meandered and reminded me of a naturalized disordered garden. Aptly named novel. I liked the prose and getting into the head of the odd, neurotic main character.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jeruen

    Take a man nearing his middle age, single, lives alone on a farmhouse, and follows random people through the night. That is the hero of this book. Claudio Fratta is a garden designer, more like a landscape architect perhaps, and he has his own business. He has no family of his own, so his nights are spent by following random people and tailing them on his car. Enter a beautiful woman by the name of Elisabetta Renal. As Claudio was sitting in his car, watching a man walk on the parking lot of a su Take a man nearing his middle age, single, lives alone on a farmhouse, and follows random people through the night. That is the hero of this book. Claudio Fratta is a garden designer, more like a landscape architect perhaps, and he has his own business. He has no family of his own, so his nights are spent by following random people and tailing them on his car. Enter a beautiful woman by the name of Elisabetta Renal. As Claudio was sitting in his car, watching a man walk on the parking lot of a supermarket, Claudio sees a van hit the man, and then another car drives by, and runs over the man lying down on the parking lot. The man dies instantly. Claudio follows the car, but the car gets into an accident itself. Claudio pulls the driver out of the car and brings the driver to the nearest hospital. The driver is Elisabetta Renal. Fast forward a few months, and Claudio is contacted for a garden designing job, by none other than Elisabetta Renal. They start to have an affair, and later on it is revealed that the man who got killed on that night a few months ago was related to Claudio's father's demise. The opportunity for revenge appeared. As you can see, the storyline of this novel is a little complicated. The thing is, the book is easy to read; it is not a bore when one goes through the prose. However, the plot is rather long and drawn out. It is not until the end of the story that the plot moves, therefore in that sense, this book is in need of a little stimulation. There are plenty of things that are left unanswered at the very beginning, and even when one is just ten pages away from the very end, things are still unanswered. For example, I was left in the dark as to why Claudio, the protagonist, follow different people around, for no apparent reason. And isn't it too much of a coincidence that the person he chose to follow, namely Conti, was somehow crucial to his past? It seemed to be too good to be true, that the stars simply aligned that night, and he became a witness to a very crucial event in the story, namely, the killing of Conti. I think this book wants to be an airport novel and literature at the same time, but it just doesn't make the cut.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    I was unfamiliar with Canobbio when I read a rapturous review of his Three Light-Years, just recently published (2014). I was intrigued, but I demurred at buying a new book, hence decided to read this earlier (2004) novel. The reviewer of Three Light-Years compared Canobbio's sensibility to Chekhov's, and I was looking for something of the same in Natural Disorder, but instead I found myself confronting a very sluggish semi-noir "crime" novel, mingled with the first-person protagonist's musings a I was unfamiliar with Canobbio when I read a rapturous review of his Three Light-Years, just recently published (2014). I was intrigued, but I demurred at buying a new book, hence decided to read this earlier (2004) novel. The reviewer of Three Light-Years compared Canobbio's sensibility to Chekhov's, and I was looking for something of the same in Natural Disorder, but instead I found myself confronting a very sluggish semi-noir "crime" novel, mingled with the first-person protagonist's musings about his past and the shape of his present life. The protagonist's search for some sort of pattern and meaning in the disorder of his rather aimless life—populated by the presence or memories of a dead brother, a philandering brother, a widowed mother, a suicide father—is waylaid by a siren femme fatale and a crime whose end promises vengeance and atonement. But instead of any sort of crescendo or climax, the mingling of present and past with the murder mystery is resolved at the end by chance. Even while the protagonist had finally decided—in dilatory Hamlet fashion—to act against the man responsible for his father's death, circumstances preceded him, and the man is killed by a wild dog. Instead of crescendo or climax, there is a convergence of events and memories, and the protagonist quietly submits to what is and what was.

  7. 5 out of 5

    William

    I really liked this book. But I can see why lots of others might not. Its a mystery and I can't remember if the perpetrator of the crime was ever even revealed. Its the story telling thats important here. Its a "gentle' crime mystery. In the vein of a Ruth Rendell mystery whodunit. I was constantly caught off-guard by clues and exposition seemingly dropped haphazardly into the story. I felt like I was walking up a staircase unaware of the dizzying heights I had attained. A natural disorder refer I really liked this book. But I can see why lots of others might not. Its a mystery and I can't remember if the perpetrator of the crime was ever even revealed. Its the story telling thats important here. Its a "gentle' crime mystery. In the vein of a Ruth Rendell mystery whodunit. I was constantly caught off-guard by clues and exposition seemingly dropped haphazardly into the story. I felt like I was walking up a staircase unaware of the dizzying heights I had attained. A natural disorder refers to a gardens ability to return to its natural chaotic state no matter a gardeners greatest efforts. In this case a professional gardener seeks to suppress horrific events of his past only to see them all spring up again after becoming accidentally (or was it an accident?) involved as a witness to a murder. Its an intelligent book with satisfying subplots and tangents. In the end you'll care less about whodunit and more about the family dynamics and great storytelling. It helps to be a little versed in Italian history and politics (and gardening and horticulture) as it is an Italian translation but if not don't be discouraged because you will learn a lot painlessly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    This book is written by an Italian and translated into English, and it definitely shows. I always expect foreign novels not to read like original English compositions because I believe thought process are determined by the author's mother language. The perpetrator of the crime here is never revealed, and the reason for the crime is revealed almost as an after-thought. The point of the book seems to be the relationship between the designs of gardens and the interactions of people with family, cli This book is written by an Italian and translated into English, and it definitely shows. I always expect foreign novels not to read like original English compositions because I believe thought process are determined by the author's mother language. The perpetrator of the crime here is never revealed, and the reason for the crime is revealed almost as an after-thought. The point of the book seems to be the relationship between the designs of gardens and the interactions of people with family, clients, lovers, friends. I was tempted many times to just stop reading but persevered through by skimming, all the while trying to make sense of Claudio's obsession with Elisabetta, which seemed to have little to do with the story or the point that I thought the author was trying to make. I was just confused. Finally, at the end I knew why Claudio felt as he did about Conti and Mosca, but the dropped hints at it were agonizingly sparse and slow in coming for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    The Natural Disorder of Things is about an Italian garden designer. He gets in over his head when he becomes romantically involved with an upper-class woman who is a widow connected to a strange aristocratic family with a lot of mysterious goings-on. There is a bit of a mystery involving the gardener witnessing a murder where someone is deliberately run down in the rain in a mall parking lot. Our garden designer is much more successful at imposing order upon the landscape than he is at putting h The Natural Disorder of Things is about an Italian garden designer. He gets in over his head when he becomes romantically involved with an upper-class woman who is a widow connected to a strange aristocratic family with a lot of mysterious goings-on. There is a bit of a mystery involving the gardener witnessing a murder where someone is deliberately run down in the rain in a mall parking lot. Our garden designer is much more successful at imposing order upon the landscape than he is at putting his own life in order. The interplay of modern vs. classical going on in his life is reflected in his garden designs. The book, translated from the Italian, has a lot of local color of modern (1990's) suburban and rural Italy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scilla

    This book seemed a little stupid and moved slowly. It is about a garden designer from what sounds like a disfunctional family. His younger brother died of an overdose; his older brother is weird; and his father had some problems. He becomes obsessed with a woman who he helped after an auto accident and then is hired to do her garden. She is the widow of a philanthropist and living with her husband's best friend who is cripled. The book never seemed to make a lot of sense. This book seemed a little stupid and moved slowly. It is about a garden designer from what sounds like a disfunctional family. His younger brother died of an overdose; his older brother is weird; and his father had some problems. He becomes obsessed with a woman who he helped after an auto accident and then is hired to do her garden. She is the widow of a philanthropist and living with her husband's best friend who is cripled. The book never seemed to make a lot of sense.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This story meanders along without ever really taking off, but it was a pleasant if uneventful journey. I found the mystery aspect hard to follow sometimes but there's a strong chance that was because I just didn't care enough about it. This story meanders along without ever really taking off, but it was a pleasant if uneventful journey. I found the mystery aspect hard to follow sometimes but there's a strong chance that was because I just didn't care enough about it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    A puzzling, peculiar, often charming tale that never quite takes off.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kbg503

    I think I was able to follow the mystery...This book is being placed with my other Gardening/Plants books because I was more interested in his ideas on garden design.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    It was very slow. I gave up after about page 75.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I can only imagine how incredible her prose is in the original Italian...the English is mesmerizing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Adom

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Argiolas

  20. 4 out of 5

    Juan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  23. 4 out of 5

    Min Zhi

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kitten

  26. 5 out of 5

    cesare rodeschini

  27. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Richardson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elisa Grassa

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

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