Books

HOUSE OF VERSACE by Deborah Ball, narrated by Jo Anna Perrin

After reading HOUSE OF GUCCI I was dying to find out more about the Versace family, and this book didn’t disappoint. My favorite part was the beginning, which described what it was like to be struggling in Calabria, a poor and provincial backwater in the toe of Italy’s boot. It was fascinating to see how Gianni Versace, a high-school dropout (which would have condemned him to a life of poverty and hard labor) nevertheless was gradually introduced into the life of fashion by his mother Francesca (a talented seamstress).

The only quibble I have is that I really wanted to spend more time Francesca, who in her own way seemed just as talented as her son Gianni. I wanted to know what it was like for a tremendously talented young woman to grow up in a poverty-stricken region, what her family was like, who taught her sewing, what her dreams were, before her inevitable marriage to someone her family considered suitable (in this case Gianni’s father).

After that, the book narrates Gianni’s stupendous rise in the fashion world of Milan, his creativity, his workaholic life-style and his over-the-top extravagance. Alongside him were his siblings; sober elder brother Santo who ran the business side of things, and flamboyant, out-of-control, wild Donatella, his kid sister.

That part of the volume was marvelous as it contained a detailed account of the ups-and-downs of the Versace clan, always fascinating if you love family dramas with outsize characters.

The book (of course) was not as successful after Gianni’s death.  Apart from this senseless traumatic event, what stood out to me was the infamous impulsively-written will Gianni wrote, in which he left his 50% stake to his 11-year-old niece Allegra. I wish that author Susanna Ball had spent more time on this as it was so important. It is still unclear to me after experiencing the whole volume, why exactly Gianni wrote his will without mentioning his siblings Santo and Donatella. I still don’t know what it was about them that made him so angry that he resorted to such petty revenge. Four stars.