Historical novel set in the Spanish speaking world. Plus QA with Maria Dueñas
Mussolini’s Island focuses on the story of one young man, Francesco.
Originally from Naples, Francesco and his mother fled their home, in fear, to start a new life in Sicily. Under the cover of new identities, they live a very different life in Catania. Francesco is a very confused individual with regard to his sexuality and it isn’t long before he falls in with a group of boys, known as the ‘arvulo rossu‘ boys ~ ‘the name was for the tree the younger arrusi sometimes met beneath on the corner of a street by the docks in Catania…young men in their twenties without the luxury of their own homes’
As Francesco himself thinks..’he has learned to be quiet, to guard what he says and who he talks to. It is what drew him to the arrusi in the first place, perhaps, that acquired art of silence.’
With the new Fascist regime in place, life for the arrusi becomes very dangerous. Meeting in low key places and dance halls, these boys flit along the back streets of Catania, having clandestine meetings with lovers in the shadows of the night.
Francesco soon realises his life has moved beyond his control and it isn’t long before he is swept up by Molino’s madness and exiled with the arussi to the secluded island of San Domino. There, the lives of these boys are no longer their own. Imprisoned in dormitories, alongside the primogeniti – the more wealthy arrusi – all are stripped of their independence and forced to live side by side.