Friday, February 20, 2015


La mia LondraLa mia Londra by Simonetta Agnello Hornby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been a fan of Simonetta Agnello Hornby's work since The Almond Picker brought her international fame but "La Mia Londra" is the first of her non-fiction works that I have read.

Simonetta Agnello Hornby is Sicilian by birth but is now a naturalised British citizen and she has lived, with her family, in London since 1970. There she practises as a lawyer too and hers was the first legal firm in England to set up a department dealing exclusively with domestic violence. She also works with the Muslim community and for underprivileged children.

An early career influence on Simonetta Agnello Hornby was Lord Denning, at that time Master of the Rolls. She never met him but heard him speak at the Law Society, where he said that a good solicitor must observe people and read, especially novels. She writes that if she became a good lawyer she owes it to the lawyer William Middleton and to Lord Denning but that it is to Lord Denning that she owes her success as a novelist.

"La mia Londra" is the story of how Simonetta Agnello Hornby came to love her adopted city. Her guide, and ours, for much of the book is Dr Johnson, whom she admires. We accompany her on her walks through all parts of the city, and she takes us to several small museums that I, for one, never knew of.

Unlike many Sicilians, Simonetta Agnello Hornby is adventurous with food and actually likes British cuisine. I was fascinated by her theory about our use of table mats rather than tablecloths, a habit she puts down to the Protestant religion and a need to demarcate one's space.

In 2000 Simonetta Agnello Hornby found herself living in a very smart area of London indeed and there she was forbidden to hang out her washing. The strategies she used to get around this prohibition are hilarious and from now on I will always visualise her clandestinely putting her washing out in the middle of the night and draping her underwear over the plant pots.

Simonetta Agnello Hornby sees the spirituality of Londoners in the city's parks, thinks of the Thames as a river that, like the English, "seems calm but is not" and is always impressed by the openness of the British towards foreigners; it was partly this, she tells us, which influenced her decision to take British citizenship. Britain, I must say, should be proud to have her.

From this book I learnt a lot about London, Dr Johnson and about one of my favorite Sicilian authors. It is not often that I can say that a book has "charmed" me but this one has. I do not think there is an English edition yet but I am sure one will come. Meanwhile, if you read Italian and love London, do read this book.

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This review has also been published on Goodreads.


Lee said...

I'll have to keep an eye out for it...I've not heard of the author before. Thanks, Pat. :)

Cuddles to Bertie. :)

Unknown said...

This sounds like a great book - thanks for the recommendation :-)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'm glad you're interested, Lee. I'll pass the cuddles on to Bertie now. Glad you like the sound of it too, Anneka.


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