The lifestyles of the rich and famous--late-nineteenth-century Sicilian version. This historical novel has incest, child sexual abuse, adultery, an extreme case of sibling rivalry, civil revolution, and the rising Mafia. Set in the Italian Risorgimento, this is a version of the life of Costanza Safamito, from her premature birth and rejection by her mother to her marriage to the charming but feckless Pietro di Sabbiamena. Initially a little slow (the description of Costanza's baptismal festivities has about half of the lengthy cast of characters--all without previous introduction), the book gains momentum and interest with the life of the young baroness Costanza. The third-person narrative is divided into 84 chapters of varying lengths, each headed by a folk saying and a short list of what will transpire in the chapter. Primary and secondary characters are drawn clearly, and some are truly memorable. Charming and engaging. Ellen Loughran
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Charming and engaging, this novel will please readers of family sagas as well as fans of Hornby's first book. (Booklist)
In this wonderful follow-up to her acclaimed novel The Almond Picker, Hornby again delves into the lives of an Italian family. . . . An engrossing tale of one young woman's perspective on a dramatic time in Italian history. Highly recommended. (Library Journal)
A voluptuously enjoyable historical novel . . . [its] luscious imagery, emphasis on family mythology and constantly conflicting passions all make for an entertaining read. (The Guardian (UK))