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A Kiss from Maddalena Hardcover – April 25, 2003
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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In Santa Cecilia, Italy, in the spring of 1943, the war is closing in. Vito Leone, a scrawny, clownish boy, not quite 18, is still at home, while his slightly older contemporaries have already gone off to fight. He is filling the days until he leaves by courting the town beauty, 15-year-old Maddalena Piccinelli, daughter of the region's most successful merchant. The title of Christopher Castellani's debut novel, A Kiss from Maddalena, is only part of Vito's plan.
The road through Santa Cecilia is "one of the widest in Italy." When Italy joins the Allies, it becomes a conduit for German invasion, causing the Santa Ceciliese to leave for more remote places. Vito stays to care for his chronically ill mother. He and Maddalena share a poignant parting, amid tears and promises. During their two-year separation, they continue to believe that they will be reunited, with her family's approval. Vito sets out to ingratiate himself to the Piccinellis in their absence by refurbishing their house, which has been ravaged by soldiers. When they return, Maddalena's mother, Chiara, says, "I am grateful ... but it's too much ... I don't like when people do things for me; I don't like the obligation. I don't trust anyone anymore." She does find it in her heart to trust one man with her daughter, however, and it isn't Vito.
Castellani's debut carries echoes of other love and war stories, such as Chocolat, Birdsong, and Corelli's Mandolin. It is a tribute to his Italian-American roots, capturing time, place and circumstance in broad strokes, but also rendering the subtleties of hope and expectation, longing and despair. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
Stendhal, in his book On Love, claimed that Italy was the home of passionate love because Italians take reverie as seriously as politics. Castellani, a young American writer, takes the Stendhalian viewpoint in this charming first novel. Vito Leone is a 17-year-old in the Italian village of Santa Cecilia in 1943, one of the few males who have not gone off to war. Vito is only intermittently aware of the fighting, since his attention is absorbed by the village beauty, Maddalena Picinelli. Vito is the village clown, living alone with his mother, Concetta, who suffers from a chronic mental disorder. Despite these circumstances, Maddalena reciprocates Vito's love. On the night that the Germans come through Santa Cecilia, blowing up buildings, Maddalena nearly decides to give herself to Vito, but to scare Maddalena into chastity, Carolina, Maddalena's shrewd sister, tells her of a young village woman who recently died in childbirth. The Picinellis flee to the countryside for the duration of the war, while Vito, in the mostly deserted village, cares for his mother. After the Germans nearly destroy the Picinelli house, Vito rebuilds it. When the Picinellis return to Santa Cecilia, they are surprised to find their house preserved, but they want to bestow Maddalena upon a prosperous Italian-American, Antonio Grasso. Will she sacrifice Vito for her family? Vito, Maddalena and Carolina are strong characters, and Castellani creates a velvety, cinematic atmosphere-a touch cliched, but rich and effective nonetheless. Like a Verdi opera, Castellani's story creates a certain grandeur out of its own lightness.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The first book in the series about an Italian family. Maddalena's family lives in a small town in italy where everyone knows the
people who live there.However it is the time of the second world war. Most of the young men have left to fight including two of
Maddalena's. brothers. When the German soldiers invade the town, most of the people leave to find shelter elsewhere. After the
was ends they return and rebuild the town. Maddalena is the youngest of the three girls. She has fallen in love with Vito, but he
does not seem to make a good impression on her fammily. However, her sisters must marry before she can think.of a marriagae
proposal. Also there is a surprise ending. Looking forward to reading Christopher's second book. Most people who have read
only the third book go back to read the first and second books.
She has gumption and determination, and is perhaps more inclined to love him because her family considers him a joke. When war intervenes, her family flees to the country while he stays in the village. Both are changed by war and on her return, she must choose love or family obligation. A bittersweet tale of love, sacrifice and duty, A Kiss From Maddalena is a masterfully written and stunning novel.