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Fiction set in Sardinia (a true family epic…)

27th February 2015

Bloodlines by Marcello Fois (translated by Silvester Mazzarella) – fiction set in Sardinia

UntitledBloodlines is beautifully written – almost poetic in its descriptions of Sardinia and its people. How much of this is down to Marcello Fois, and how much down to Silvester Mazzarella, has to be debateable – but the result is stunning. This, describing the death of one of the main characters ‘The One and the Other exchange glances. The One, lying down, seems far away, but is watching the other through half-closed eyelids. The Other, his brow furrowed, responds to this absent stare with a persistent expression of expectation. As it always has been, and always will be’. Or this describing the birth of a stillborn daughter to another of the main characters ‘But Mercede knows there is only one reason. The child inside her is dead. Again. She knows because she has felt the pain of farewell before the pain of childbirth. First an emptiness then a laceration. Like when what you most fear in the world happens, and happens inexorably, and is made doubly cruel by the fact that you have been fearing it all along’.

Bloodlines is indeed an epic story. Set in Nuoro in central eastern Sardinia, it describes the life and fortunes / misfortunes of the Chironi family from the meeting of Michele Angelo and Mercede in 1889 through to the second world war. Michele Angelo is a blacksmith who build a sizeable business over the years. Mercede is his wife. They have many children, two born stillborn and twin boys brutally murdered whilst running an errand, but three who lived – two brothers and a sister. One brother enlists to fight in the first world war, and the other heads for Australia. The sister marries a local up and coming fascist, and the marriage ends tragically. What I found so brilliant about Bloodlines is how Fois describes the major events of the 20th Century (two world wars and the rise of fascism) against the politics, intrigues and lives of a small town community. There is an enormous mismatch – and yet both were happening at the same time. World events seemed pretty remote from Nuoro, yet the sons of the town were joining up and being killed… in a world that seemed so far away. I guess, though, that this must have been the experience in small communities all over Europe from which ‘cannon fodder’ was being recruited.

No doubt that Bloodlines is a great story, and one that will live with me for a while. But, as I said at the beginning, what really makes the book is the language in which it is told – in both Italian and English. There are sentences which you wish to ponder and not rush (as page turning as some parts of the book may be…). It is one of the best books I have read for a while…

Fancy another top read set in Sardinia? Try The Whispering Wind by Lexa Dudley

Tony for the TripFiction team

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