Five great books set in Sicily

25th October 2018

Sicily is the latest destination in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Sicily.

Five great books set in Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and is a proudly autonomous region of Italy, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. That independence was hard won, the island’s rich history telling of earlier occupation by Phoenician, Greek and Roman Empires, Vandals, Goths, the Byzantine Empire, Arabs and Normans.

The island’s best known landmark is Mount Etna, a simmering, hissing active volcano reaching 3,329 metres into the sky. Sicily’s natural beauty, climate, archaeological sites, rich culture of arts, music, literature, food and architecture all combine to lure increasing numbers of tourists to this intoxicating place.

Let’s take a look at five great books set very firmly in Sicily, that will bring the island to vivid life for readers, whether from the comfort of your own armchair at home or whilst you explore Sicily’s many wonders.

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri and his character Commissario Salvo Montalbano have done much to bring Sicily to the attention of outsiders. Adapted into a hugely successful TV series, the stories unfold in fictional Vigata….but avid followers of Montalbano should head to Ragusa to immerse themselves in Camilleri’s stories and, you never know, you might even stumble across some cameras filming a TV episode. It would be remiss for any list of books set in Sicily not to include at least one Camilleri/Montalbano title…

In The Potter’s Field, Vigàta is wracked by storms. Inspector Salvo Montalbano is called to attend the discovery of a dismembered body in a field of clay. Bearing all the marks of an execution style killing, it seems clear that this is, once again, the work of the notorious local mafia. But who is the victim? Why was the body divided into 30 pieces? And what is the significance of the Potter’s Field?

Working to decipher these clues, Montalbano must also confront the strange and difficult behaviour exhibited by his old colleague Mimi, and avoid the distraction of the enchanting Dolores Alfano, who seeks the inspector’s help in locating her missing husband. But like the Potter’s Field itself, Montalbano is on treacherous ground and only one thing is certain – nothing is quite as it seems . . .

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

An electrifying novel about marriage and deceit from bestselling author Delia Ephron that follows two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from one another are exposed and relationships are unraveled.

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. From the beginning, says Taylor, it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.

Told “Rashomon”-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa by Matthew Fort

At the age of twenty-six Matthew Fort first visited the Italian island of Sicily. He and his brother arrived in 1973 expecting sun, sea and good food, but they were totally unprepared for the lifelong effect of this most extraordinary of Mediterranean islands.

Thirty years later, older and a bit wiser – but no less greedy – Matthew finally returns. Travelling around the island on his scooter, Monica, he samples almond ice cream on the spectacular coast and intoxicating mouthfuls of sausage stew in olive groves, and goes fishing for anchovies beneath a star-scattered sky.

Matthew is drawn once again to the intensity of life in Sicily, its dramatic landscape and traditions, and discovers how the island’s vibrant food culture is intertwined with its often turbulent past.

The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

In Sicily in 1860, as Italian unification grows inevitable, the smallest of gestures seems dense with meaning and melancholy, sensual agitation and disquiet: “Some huge irrational disaster is in the making.”

All around him, the prince, Don Fabrizio, witnesses the ruin of the class and inheritance that already disgust him. His favorite nephew, Tancredi, proffers the paradox, “If we want things to stay as they are, they will have to change,” but Don Fabrizio would rather take refuge in scepticism or astronomy, “the sublime routine of the skies.”

Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew and Suzanne Edwards

Rising up from the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily has a rich and ancient history spanning over 2,000 years. A bounty prized by invaders from the Greeks, Romans and Vandals to the Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Sicily’s violently beautiful landscapes are haunted by a vibrant mix of cultures and her soil has always been fertile ground for the literary and artistic imagination.

This compelling guide uncovers the island’s multi-faceted personality through those literary figures who have managed to get under her skin – from Pindar, Cicero and Aeschylus to Shakespeare and Cervantes; DH Lawrence, Coleridge and Oscar Wilde to Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Ezra Pound and Lawrence Durrell; as well as local writers who have defined the modern Italian novel – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and Leonardo Sciascia.

Through their words and lives we witness the beauty, pain and power of the Sicilian cultural landscape and discover how the potent mix of influences on the island’s society has been preserved forever in literature.

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to this list? Any you would like to add to our database? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below, and you can buy any of these books through TripFiction by clicking on the link on any book page.

Other posts in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series:

Five great books set in Naples

Five great books set in Dublin

Five great books set in Dubai

Five great books set in Portugal

Five great books set in San Francisco

Five great books set in Edinburgh

Five great books set in Guernsey

Five great books set in Mexico

Five great books set in Alpine countries

Five great books set in Korea

Five great books set in Tunisia

Five great books set in Sweden

Five great books set in Croatia

Five great books set in Pompeii

And our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series includes:

Ten great books set in Paris

Ten great books set in New York

Ten great books set in London

Ten great books set in Rome

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Russia

Ten great books set in Spain

Ten great books set in Amsterdam

Ten great books set in Thailand

Ten great books set in Raj era India

Ten great books set in Japan

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