The Performance


The story of a love triangle played out through mutual manipulation

Giorgia was a talented actress before she abandoned her stage career and fell in love with Filippo. She settles into a life of quiet compromise—until one day she bumps into her old theater director, Mauro, who fans the acting flame back to life. But setting a restless soul on fire can be dangerous if she loses sight of the boundary between reality and fiction—and Giorgia collapses, ending up in a clinic. Filippo and Mauro find themselves both accomplices and adversaries, seduced by a dangerous game to heal and win back Giorgia: by writing the script for her perfect life. In this dazzling debut, Petrucci explores the ambiguous borders between love, possession, and control in clear, magnetic prose.

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Publication date

August 2, 2022




Claudia Petrucci

Claudia Petrucci studied Modern Letters in Milan before moving to Perth, Australia. Her reportages and short stories … Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. Was The Performance the book you were expecting it to be?
  2. If not, how was it different?
  3. What was the performance, who the performer?
  4. Is this a story about imperfect love, of love as the drive to mold someone to fulfil your own needs?
  5. When possession and manipulation become dominant in a relationship, can this still be called love? Why (not)?
  6. Is there a redeeming, ideal form of love in these pages?
  7. Have you seen or read Twelfth Night? How do the scenes read by Giorgia intersect with her story?
  8. More broadly, are there major Shakespearean themes to be found in this book? E.g. All the world’s a stage …
  9. Are we, in our social media activity—with its filters, curated, and enhanced self-portrayals in which we highlight how cool, interesting, and attractive we are—also trapped in the habit of constructing our own narrative and our own identity?
  10. How is this similar to the way in which Giorgia’s new identity is constructed?
  11. In what other ways are our lives exercises like the one portrayed in The Performance?
  12. What can we do to safeguard our authenticity and to stay clear of external manipulation?
  13. Not considering Giorgia’s own happiness for a moment—should our conclusion after Mauro and Filippo’s experiment be that it is impossible to “round someone off”? For example, that Filippo can’t have a Giorgia who is a femme fatale, as well as a sweet, compliant girlfriend, and still an authentic person?
  14. Or should our conclusion rather be that you can’t change someone’s nature?
  15. Who is the real Giorgia?
  16. Have you read any other novels that had main characters suffering from paranoid schizophrenia? Have you encountered the condition in your personal life?
  17. Does the ending leave the characters in an equilibrium? If not, how do you expect things to develop?
  18. Do you know Milan? Did the location of the story impact the way you experienced it?
  19. The Performance is Claudia Petrucci’s debut novel. What do you think the author will write next, based on this debut?

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Praise for The Performance

“What’s left of an actor when she leaves the stage? Who is she when she takes off her mask and is no longer just a character? These are some of the questions running through Claudia Petrucci’s debut novel, The Performance, and they make for a very intense and original story.”
La Repubblica

“A daring, staggering debut novel.”

“I must say it: it’s a stunning novel. Claudia Petrucci, born in 1990—how can she be so good?”

“An assertive incipit for Claudia Petrucci’s surprising debut novel, the story of a love triangle revolving around the theme of mutual manipulation. Petrucci is skilled at challenging the notion of self-knowledge, as well as the notion that we know others, by showing the extent to which people’s presumed transparency is as deceitful as their opacity. Petrucci transforms mental illness into something literary, an extremely sophisticated and intelligent psychological-thriller device. Thanks to the high-quality narration, the point is no longer credibility or scientific accuracy, but, rightfully, the intimate fictional truths of the characters.”

“Despite the high meta-literary risk it takes, the novel performs well, thanks to the simple and swift prose. A brilliant and enjoyable exploration of identity, of the projections we have of others, the sky full of imaginings that characterizes every romance. These are some of the many themes Petrucci skillfully incorporates into the rhythm of the story. The Performance is the debut of a talented writer.”
Corriere della Sera

“With dazzling narrative flair, an intricate and vibrant plot, and writing of rare elegance, The Performance stages the lives of Giorgia, Filippo, and Mauro, three characters who stick to the page yet are also separate from it. They lead their own lives, which are so sharp and three-dimensional that they end up overwhelming the reader.”
Il Messaggero

“In these pages, in Petrucci’s intense and sharp writing, throbs a deep question: from theater to everyday life, what is existence but a staging, a performance, the interpretation of a role, a practice of identity that risks intertwining with madness, a mask that becomes a face, a play that is in fact reality?”
Il Mattino

“Claudia Petrucci’s novel captures the reader immediately and makes some very good choices. The first is setting the events in the world of theater. Then there is the story that unfolds inside Filippo’s head. And, above all else, there’s Petrucci’s pure talent, which is the art of storytelling.”
Il Piccolo

“This novel prods us to admit that effort in relationships is not limited to the productive, charitable effort we put into accepting each other, day after day, year after year; it is also the work of recognizing ourselves in the faithful and incorruptible mirror found in the ones we have chosen.”
Il Tascabile

“Claudia Petrucci’s debut novel is a dazzling story that straddles the line between fiction and reality, between love and possession.”

“A powerful, intense, and authentic debut novel that tackles complex themes with reverence and thoroughness, in astonishing prose.”

“This is a manifestation of talent. The Performance is a miracle of perfection.”
VERONICA RAIMO, author of The Girl at the Door

“Solid architecture, elegant prose, an uncanny story that subtly unsettles the reader. Claudia Petrucci has crafted a wonderful debut novel.”
NADIA TERRANOVA, author of Farewell, Ghosts

“The witty plot, the sharp, subtle and suspenseful writing, and the emotions triggered by the main characters, especially Giorgia and Filippo, make The Performance a literary page-turner. It is like reading a perfect thriller, resonating with deep psychological nuances. A stunning novel on manipulation.”
Philippe Rey, French publisher

The Performance is an outstanding novel on how we build our identity and elaborate the reality that surrounds us. Claudia Petrucci’s debut belongs to a rare category of books: high-quality literary novels that can become great commercial successes.”
Wagenbach, German publisher