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Secrets of Life and Death: Women and the Mafia Paperback – November 17, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This recounting of the involvement of women in the Mafia as both victims and participants (often the line between the two is blurred) is moving because its subject is so affecting. But while Siebert (a German-born professor who has lived in Italy since 1970) does a fine job of quoting various autobiographical writings, she fails to provide much structure to clarify the role of women in general. She basically admits as much on the final page, sighing, "I have no concluding words. I am exhausted and emotionally fraught at the end of this involving journey through the good and evil in our present." The numerous quotations are divided into three parts dealing with the Mafia and gender, women on the side of the Mafia and women working against it. There is a wide gap between the author's academic analysis and the brutal facts reported. For example, Siebert invokes Hannah Arendt's theories on the banality of evil in trying to explain the pull of this cult of death, but the simple words of the women speak more powerfully: "I saw the dead man's feet; he had been placed face down and covered with only his feet sticking out but I saw the white socks, the socks I'd washed yesterday for my son." One of the most interesting sections deals with housewives who acted as drug couriers between Palermo and New York because security forces rarely suspected them. One such woman laments that the judge failed to send her to jail when she was caught, as her husband was in prison at the time and she would have preferred to join him rather than take care of their eight children by herself. While this work is far from perfect, details such as that one make it valuable, particularly to English-language readers who may not have access to many of the original texts.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Books about the mafia are either intelligent or exciting. This one is both. But the author never lets sensationalism get the upper hand. It is such a considered, thoughtful work, yet the subject it deals with, principally the enslavement and victimization of women, and, not least, their corruption, is so shocking as to stun. The result is a considerable achievement.”—Ruth Rendell

“The women of the mafiosi always know everything. If they talk, it's all over for Cosa Nostra.”—Piera
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (November 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185984023X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859840238
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,775,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tommye Rodrigues on June 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is filled with interesting facts. Unfortunately, it is written like a college text and is far too technical for casual reading. It is truly a formidable study of the role of women in the context of the mafia. Fascinating but not for the casual reader.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MsEricaReal on March 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have not start to read it yet and do not think i can the words are very small to me almost like a news paper
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