Review: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

I have vivid memories of having this book recommended to me in junior high by my English teacher. He said it was one of the only books he had ever read that was written in second person, and that I had to try it out. And so I called up my mom, we drove to this obscure bookstore, and I picked it up. And guess what. It sat on my shelf for at least five years collecting dust haha. I finally got around to reading it this week, and while I didn’t hate it (and I did finish it), I can’t say that I was blown away.

First of all, I found Calvino’s writing extremely hard to follow. It seemed like he would change what the characters were doing without any warning,  and then when you read the next sentence they were somehow across the room when a second ago they had been on the couch. And he also did this when he transitioned from chapter to chapter. He would always write so that within a chapter there was the beginning of a new book, and then the next chapter would start when the main story of ‘the Reader’ cut off. During this time of transition, the protagonist (or the character the story was focusing on) could have moved from room to room, or from one continent to another, or could have changed all together. So yeah, his writing was disorientating and confusing.

Another thing was that while the short stories in the chapters could be really cool, there was also some really weird ones, and ones that just straight up made me uncomfortable. So yeah, I didn’t like that. But some of the short stories were even more interesting than the main story we were following, and I was more interested in continuing that book than ‘If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller’ haha.


Even with all of these downsides, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book to some extent. I did finish it, I just wasn’t that invested in what happened. The characters weren’t compelling, and even though it was supposed to be like an ‘insert yourself into this character’ book, I couldn’t. Not just because Calvino decided to gender the protag (literally so unnecessary, I considered multiple times writing a counter book that only uses They pronouns), but also because… he was kind of a jerk sometimes. And Ludmilla was the kind of stuck up reader that I really don’t enjoy listening to in real life, and definitely didn’t enjoy reading about (or inserting myself into her story).

I think the best part of this book was the feeling of accomplishment I got when I finally finished it. Overall, I would give it a 2.5/5 stars. I’ll put it as 2 on Goodreads (their translation to ‘it was ok’).

That’s all for now ducks! I hope your weekend was wonderful & productive!

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7 thoughts on “Review: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino”

  1. I am not surprised by your review as Calvino is a difficult writer and isn’t easy to understand what he is trying to say in the first go. That being said, I think if you read the book in a few years time again, you will enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely think that this book warrants a second go, because like you said, I might understand everything better on the second read. It’s a really interesting novel based off a great idea, and I think with a slower, more focused read I would enjoy it more! Have you read many of Calvino’s works?


      1. Yes very interesting idea. Btw I took ages to complete this book. Lol. Yes I’ve read his short stories too as well as the famous “Invisible Cities” again a tough read.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s just about one city even though it looks like it’s about many.. it is a discussion between two ppl. (I won’t give away too much. )


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