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A Kiss from Maddalena Paperback – Bargain Price, June 1, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425196429
  • ASIN: B000HIV0FO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,809,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David G. W. Scott on April 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Castellani's debut novel is a love story in a time of war. Castellani's gift is for storytelling, and his prose is so precise you can smell the dusty air of Santa Cecilia in every sentence. He's so at ease telling the story of Vito's love for Maddalena, that you fall in love with both of them. Castellani has a great sense for story and a great ear for rhythmic prose. I couldn't help wishing against all my 21st Century common sense, for love to work out. This is writing that will stand the test of time. A Kiss From Maddalena, from the title to the conclusion is as measured and suddenly surprising as life itself. If you are a reader who loves to be lost in the tale, here's the first book on your new list.
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Format: Hardcover
Much to my delight I have just finished reading A Kiss from Maddalena. It was like taking a journey through time and place where one continually experiences life in a sensual and realistic fashion. The author has created a wonderful story of family that is woven into the tapestry of a small village in war ravaged Italy. The characters remind me of my aunts and uncles and stories told over a big bowl of pasta. Bravo! A wonderfully engaging story that invites the reader to feel the passions and struggles of life and love.
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Format: Hardcover
I finished AKFM last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was my incentive to get to bed early for several nights, and it kept me up too late each time! I want to go to Santa Cecilia and the olive grove and I want to eat some of Celestina's soup. Standing under chestnut trees has a whole new meaning for me now. Vito, Maddalena, Carolina, Buccio, Concetta--I can't get over how many characters the author developed and how the story remained true to their time and circumstances. Not just a love story, but a painless history lesson, a celebration of place, and an examination of the power of both passionate and familial love. The prose is cooked just right: al dente, with plenty of rich dialogue on top. This is a novel where you get your money's worth.
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Format: Hardcover
Christopher Castellani has written the tale of a love that is haunted by fate. His hero, Vito is, a quixotic young man who has remained at home during wartime to care for his ailing mother. He is a bit of a misfit, a somewhat awkward, goofy, gangly romantic. The story starts with a scheme he comes up with to get Maddalena, whom he has loved forever to kiss him. The scheme doesn't work out the way he planned, but he does get to kiss most of the girls in the village. Maddalena does come to fall in love with him, although she knows that her family will never accept Vito as a husband for her. She is their treasure, the youngest and most beautiful of their daughters and they want her to make a good marriage. The destitute Vito does not qualify as an eligible suitor. Vito's mother, in her lucid moments, feels resentment for Maddalena's family because of their condescension toward her son. Nevertheless, both Maddalena and Vito feel that they are destined to be together, that love will find a way. And Vito really tries to find a way. When Maddalena's family leaves the village for the country to escape from the fleeing German army, Vito remains behind to care for his mother, and in a sense, save the village. They make plans to communicate during Maddalena's absence and to keep their love alive. A series of fateful events overtake the lovers, culminating in a surprising ending to the story, that is really fitting if you think about it. An unforgettable story that will haunt you with the unexpected twists of fate that affect the lives of all the people whose lives touch those of Vito and Maddalena. You will want to read it again to pick up clues to the ending. Maddalena's fate is also a reminder of the position of a woman in 1940's Italy whose life decisions were largely outside her control and that great beauty does not always provide a path to happiness.
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Format: Hardcover
I love to read, but I am a full-time grandmother and I don't often get the time.My girlfriend told me I HAD to read this book and so I ordered it a few weeks ago. I just got it this week and I already finished it! I could NOT put this book down! I have never been lucky enough to travel overseas, and the most Italian thing in my part of the country is the Olive Garden, but this book really made me feel like I was IN Italy. The stories about WWII in the book made the war now seem more real, like I could see how much it can destroy people's lives and at the same time bring them closer together too. I won't give the ending away, but I was crying my eyes out. I wish movies were this good!
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Format: Hardcover
A KISS FROM MADDALENA captures love and reality in World War II Italy and the years immediately following the war. We meet the young Vito Leone who is madly in love with the beautiful Maddalena Piccineli, the youngest daughter of the village's storekeeper. At first, Maddalena wants nothing to do with the loveable, yet goofy Vito. Vito is hardly handsome, has a limited future, and is considered too much of a mama's boy. Besides, her parents want their favorite daughter to marry someone more worthy of her love than Vito. Gradually she sees the charm of this genuinely good young man. The war separates the two, and changes after the war test the couple. The characters are so well developed, and the details of the story are so vivid, the reader immediately is drawn into the work. Maddalena has to make very important choices in the novel. If she marries the man her parents prefer, she will risk losing their love, but doing so would crush Vito. The reader wonders which way she will go, will she marry the man she loves and hurt her parents, or will she hurt Vito?
The two main characters of the book are real flesh and blood people, and the reader cannot help but love them both. Readers will immediately develop a soft spot for Vito; he is the epitome of goodness. He unselfishly cares for his mentally ill mother even though it means putting his own life and ambitions on hold, he will do anything for anyone, and he deserves to be loved by someone as good as Maddalena. Readers will sympathize with Maddalena as well, a girl who wants to please everyone yet also wants to be happy. Throughout the work readers will hope that she is able to follow her heart.
Though the book is an old fashioned love story, it is never sentimental, and it does not follow conventional twists.
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