In his playful new novel, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri, Strega prize winner Starnone pits Daniele, a cranky 75-year-old artist, against his obstinate four-year-old grandson in a three-day battle of wills. Daniele, still convalescing from surgery, is babysitter while his daughter and her husband are at a conference. Daniele finds himself back in his hated boyhood apartment in Naples, where they live. He is used to solitude and deadlines (he’s working on illustrations for Henry James’s ghost story The Jolly Corner). Mario pesters him mercilessly, with increasingly perilous pranks. Starnone echoes Henry James throughout, with ghoulish hallucinations, and piercing insights into identity and the shifting perceptions of ageing. The appendix, Daniele’s sketchbook and journal, is both a prelude to the action and a stark meditation on art, ambition and failure.