Monday, July 25, 2011


That Summer in Sicily: A Love StoryThat Summer in Sicily: A Love Story by Marlena De Blasi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I wrote about Ragusa's Castle of Donnafugata for Italy Magazine, several readers contacted me to say that it was the setting of this book. Sadly, that is not so but I am grateful to them for pointing the book out to me. As Marlena De Blasi states in an introductory note, Donnafugata is the name of several real and fictional properties in Sicily, most famously the one near Palermo in Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard. However, De Blasi's tale is none the less fascinating for that:

In 1995, De Blasi travelled to the island with her Venetian husband to complete a journalistic assignment. For various reasons this work project did not come to fruition but one day, the couple stumble upon the Villa Donnafugata and there they meet the fascinating Tosca and the community of women over which she presides.

De Blasi's powers of description are superb and, although I live in Sicily, I felt transported to a world within my own world as she set the scene: I could almost smell the perfume of the gardens, feel the texture of the table linen and taste the feasts which the women prepare with ingredients that I have come to know so well. As a reader I often skip descriptive passages but here I did not want them to end.

As the couple become more and more drawn into their surroundings and the life of the Villa, Tosca decides to tell her story to the writer De Blasi and we are taken back to the Sicily of seventy years ago as the magnificent Tosca weaves the strands of her tale: poverty, riches, great love, crime, loss and a fateful journey to Palermo during which she finds both herself and her purpose in life.

But the story does not end here for there is a twist in the plot towards the end of the book which will have you weeping and jumping for joy at the same time.

I admit I couldn't put the book down and what else are summers for if not a little romantic indulgence? Is the story true? De Blasi says it is and the book is classified as a travel memoir. One thing I do know is that anything can happen in Sicily and, however much of it you believe, this is a jolly good yarn.

There is an interesting interview with Marlena De Blasi at the end of this edition and I would agree with much of what she says, but not with her assertion that "Sicily is not really Italy". Sicily is, if anything, an exaggeration of Italy and for me Barzini's words sum it up:

"Sicily is the schoolroom model of Italy for beginners, with every Italian quality and defect magnified, exasperated, and brightly coloured... Everywhere in Italy life is more or less slowed down by the exuberant intelligence of its inhabitants: in Sicily it is practically paralysed by it."

My guess is that Marlena De Blasi would agree with the second, but not the first, sentence of this quotation.

The Leopard

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My friend Patricia in California has also reviewed a Marlena De Blasi book recently.  Do take a look as I want to read this one too!


Patricia said... nice of you to mention by blog! I have also read this book by Marlena DiBlasi and I enjoyed it very much. I would also agree with your comments about Sicily. I say it is Italy in Technicolor! I love the intensity of it!

Saretta said...

Sounds like a great read. Just one Q, is it a novel or a true story?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

My pleasure, Patricia. I enjoyed your review. Hi, Saretta. The author says it is true.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

WL, have you seen the wonderful film of The Leopard, directed by Visconti?

If not, do! It is sensationally good, and don't be put off by the fact that Burt Lancaster plays the lead - he is first-rate, and the dubbing is undetectable (I assume he didn't actually speak Sicilian dialect!).

The film is true to the book right down to the excerts from Verdi that are played by the town band when the family arrives at Donnafugata; except that it misses off the last two chapters.

The young Claudia Cardinale is pretty sensational too, but that may just be a man's particular point of view...

Can't recommend it highly enough.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Oh, yes, WY, I've seen it many times in both languages! I rather go for Burt myself.


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