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Ten Great Books set in SICILY
11th September 2021
Sicily is the latest location for our ‘Ten Great Books Set In…’ series. Ten great books set in Sicily. Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island, is just off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot.” Its rich history is reflected in sites like the Valley of the Temples, the well-preserved ruins of 7 monumental, Doric-style Greek temples, and in the Byzantine mosaics at the Cappella Palatina, a former royal chapel in capital city Palermo. On Sicily’s eastern edge is Mount Etna, one of Europe’s highest active volcanoes.
‘L’ amuri è come a tussi…nun si po ammucciari’ – ‘Love is like a cough… impossible to hide’ – Sicilian proverb
The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby
From an award-winning BBC journalist, this moving book turns the testimony of an accidental hero into a timeless story about human fellowship and the awakening of courage and conscience.
‘I can hardly begin to describe to you what I saw as our boat approached the source of that terrible noise. I hardly want to. You won’t understand because you weren’t there. You can’t understand. You see, I thought I’d heard seagulls screeching. Seagulls fighting over a lucky catch. Birds. Just birds.’
Emma-Jane Kirby has reported extensively on the reality of mass migration today. In The Optician of Lampedusa she brings to life the moving testimony of an ordinary man whose late summer boat trip off a Sicilian island unexpectedly turns into a tragic rescue mission.
The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri
While 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 . . .
My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas
Could the lemon groves of Sicily be the perfect place to start over? The irresistible new novel from Jo Thomas, the author of Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard, will transport you to the island of mountains and sparkling blue seas.
When life hands you lemons … is it ever too late for a second chance?
Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?
But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…
A Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth
The Court of King Roger in Twelfth century Sicily simmers with the volatile passions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Latins and Greeks. Among them, a young Norman called Thurstan Beauchamp finds employment under Yusuf, a Muslim who holds the Christian king’s purse strings.
But while Thurstan wishes to be made a Knight, he has little taste for courtly intrigues and instead divides his time between the divine – in the shape of childhood sweetheart Lady Alicia – and the delightful: the sensuous and exotic dancer Nesrin.
However, in his pursuit of love and knighthood, Thurstan has yet to appreciate that he may also be a pawn in a far more deadly game …
Secrets in Sicily by Penny Feeny
Sicily, 1977 Ten-year-old Lily and family arrive for their annual summer holiday in Sicily. Adopted as a toddler, Lily’s childhood has been idyllic. But a chance encounter with a local woman on the beach changes everything… 10 years later… Ever since that fateful summer Lily’s picture-perfect life, and that of her family, has been in turmoil. The secrets of the baking hot shores of Sicily are calling her back, and Lily knows that the answers she has been so desperately seeking can only be found if she returns to her beloved island once more…
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 skepticism or astronomy, “the sublime routine of the skies.”
Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb
A journey into the heart of Sicily, using art, food, history and literature to shed light on southern Italy’s legacy of political corruption and violent crime. The book takes as its starting point the ongoing trial of seven-times Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
That Summer in Sicily by Marlena de Blasi
‘At villa Donnafugata, long ago is never very far away,’ writes bestselling author Marlena de Blasi of the magnificent if somewhat ruined castle in the mountains of Sicily that she stumbles upon one summer while traveling with her husband. There de Blasi is befriended by Tosca, the patroness of the villa, who shares her own unforgettable love story. In a luminous and tantalizing voice, de Blasi re-creates Tosca’s life and romance with the last prince of Sicily descended from the French nobles of Anjou. But when Prince Leo attempts to better the lives of his peasants, his defiance of the local Mafia costs him dearly. The present-day narrative finds Tosca sharing her considerable inherited wealth with a harmonious society composed of many of the women-now widowed-who once worked the prince’s land alongside their husbands. This marvelous epic drama reminds us that in order to live a rich life, one must embrace both life’s sorrow and its beauty.
The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty
When her boss Olivia is taken ill, Alice is sent on the work trip of a lifetime: to a villa in Sicily, to edit the autobiography of Hollywood bad boy Luther Carson. But it’s not all yachts, nightclubs and Camparis. Luther’s arrogant agent Sam wants him to ditch the book. Luther himself is gorgeous, charming and impossible to read. There only seems to be one way to get his attention, and it definitely involves mixing business with pleasure. Alice is out of the office, and into deep trouble…
There’s no Home by Alexander Baron
It’s 1943. The allied invasion of Sicily. In a lull in the fighting, a British battalion march through the summer heat into the bombed-out city of Catania, to be greeted by the women, children and old men who remain there. Yearning for some semblance of home life, the men begin to fill the roles left by absent husbands and fathers. Unlikely relationships form: tender, exploitative even cruel, and each doomed to end when the battalion moves on.
Many lives interleave in There’s No Home but at its heart is the love that develops between Graziella, a bright young mother, and Sergeant Craddock, whose faltering Italian and rough attempts at seduction mask a deeper sympathy. In this sensitive and authentic portrayal of men and women thrown together by chance and conflict, Baron offers us a rare insight into the emotional impact of war.
What a great selection of books there is in Sicily! If you have any to add to the list, please do so in the Comments below…
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