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On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal…

On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal (1986)

by Mary Taylor Simeti

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A charming "My Summer in Tuscany" type of travel book written by an American author who travels to Sicily, marries a Sicilian, and stays. Travel combined with local history and family tales and a very large amount of information about agriculture, local vegetation, crops and local produce. If this is your cup of tea, it is then best read together with the companion book by the same author that covers "twenty-five years of Sicilian Food" entitled Pomp and Sustenance. Ms. Simeti's colourful and exuberant writing style helps add flavor to the journal (pun intended) as she covers her subject.

The paragraphs on agriculture come to life in classic Sicilian recipes still being prepared today. There's not much on culinary traditions introduced by the Vandals and Goths, but the appearance of the Muslim Period in Sicilian history (800s-roughly 1000) meant the introduction of sugar cane, for one, embellished with spices, pistachios and dates, to create many Sicilian desserts with "an Arab imprint, and several that even bear Arab names." This is a reading combination where 1 1=3. Amongst other great additions to world cuisine was tuna. The Sicilians had always been blessed with excellent tuna fishing grounds but it was the Arabs who taught them how to catch them collectively, turning tuna into one of the world's great staples. (And it was a Sicilian who first thought of canning tuna in oil.)

However, the journal alone is a very pleasant introduction to Sicilian life and history and one of the few available in English. I read it having visited Sicily only once but with a return trip planned in a few months' time, for which I am sure I will be much better prepared.
( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
Very good book abt life in Sicily,its history and traditions. Highly recommended.
Written by an American women that went to visit and never left.She married and rasied her family in Sicily. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Mary Taylor went to Sicily after college graduation and married a Sicilian. She presents her life on the island by seasons, not chronologically. She talks of the flowers ( a lot), of the food, the Greek legends, the religious festivals, and the mafia. She also discusses her attempt at coming to terms with having chosen to live her life in sicily. ( )
  pnorman4345 | Jan 5, 2012 |
Simeti is a Radcliffe grad who traveled to Italy to write a paper, and ended up marrying a Sicilian. She recounts her life in and around Palermo as an expat. The book is organized by the four seasons. Although it covers one year, she wanders back and forth through time. She is very observant, especially with respect to the seasonal flora. She also interweaves considerable history and of course food and the mafia. She is an excellent writer (see also "Travels With A Medieval Queen"). This one of the better books I have read on Sicily. ( )
1 vote nemoman | May 3, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679764143, Paperback)

Mary Taylor Simeti arrived in Sicily in 1962 to do volunteer work. Freshly graduated from Radcliffe College after growing up in a distinguished and privileged New York City family, the last thing she expected was to fall in love and marry a Sicilian. On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal is the ambivalent love story of an intelligent, complex, and self-reflective woman. The book recounts the events of 1983, the year Simeti turned 42. Her narrative alternates between Palermo, where her children attend school and her husband Toninno is a professor of agricultural economy, and Bosco, in eastern Sicily, where she shoulders demanding responsibilities on the working farm that has belonged to her husband's family for three generations.

Simeti feels the isolation of being an expatriate and outsider, although she claims to welcome this perspective when faced with frustration and disgust at the pervading political corruption and corrosive effects of the Mafia on everyday life. Despite her natural diffidence, she shares personal insights that makeOn Persephone's Island as compelling as her prose. Simeti intersperses rich helpings of Sicilian history and culture with mundane events and insight into what motivates the peasants essential to the survival of the family farm. And she makes pessimistic observations about the complexity of changing times in a society where the persistent reliance on feudal relationships and agriculture is finally crumbling.

An academic manqué, Simeti researches and ruminates on the mythological underpinnings of the many holidays and festivals that punctuate the rhythm of Sicilian life. She focuses particularly on the Greek goddesses Persephone and Demeter, who held Sicily under their protection. She eventually discovers a correlation between her own situation and the story of Persephone, who alternately inhabited the worlds of light and darkness.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:26 -0400)

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"In this volume, originally compiled exclusively for the members of the Science Fiction Book Club and not available in stores, editor Marvin Kaye has skillfully gathered brand-new contributions to the hoard of dragon lore by five top fantasy authors." "Orson Scott Card - offers a gothic yarn set in contemporary suburbia. "In the Dragon's House" tells about the mysterious dragon that lives in the wiring of an old house, palpable only to a young boy who in dreams shares its body and feels its true size and power. But what does it really want?" "Mercedes Lackey, prolific author of the Valdemar saga, writes of a slave boy who is chosen to care for a warrior's dragon. Vetch (and the reader) will learn much about dragon behavior ... and this special dragon's secrets may be the key to his freedom. (Lackey was so taken by young Vetch that she expanded his adventures into a full-length novel with the same name as this novella - "Joust.")"."Tanith Lee is no stranger to dragons, which appear quite often in her award-winning fantasies. The fable "Love in a Time of Dragons" is imbued with their signature atmosphere - Old World, moody, erotic - as a kitchen maid goes a-questing with a handsome champion to slay the local drakkor. But the tale takes a surprising twist ..." "Elizabeth Moon, author of the popular Esmay Suiza and Heris Serrano series, takes a break from military science fiction to give us the tale of a young man forced by lies to flee his village ... into an adventure of dwarfs and dragon-spawn, of trust and wisdom, and, ultimately, "Judgment."" "Rounding off the collection is Michael Swanwick's "King Dragon, " a strange amalgam of twentieth-century technology and faery magic, in which the award-winning author invokes a truly sinister and repellent creature - a being with the soul of a beast and the body of a machine - part metal, part devil ... all merciless."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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