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The Marchesa by Simonetta Agnello Hornby
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Read the Almond Picker instead. The story in the Marchesa is thin by comparison. ( )
  devilish2 | Nov 23, 2010 |
Caterina is a love child. But love alone is never enough. ( )
  Peppuzzo | Sep 16, 2010 |
Having read and enjoyed Simonetta Agnello Hornby's first book, "The Almond Picker," I was eager to read this second novel set in Sicily in the late 1800's. The review I read of it was disappointing...hinting at slow-moving prose and a cast of confusing characters. Fortunately, I decided to see for myself and was so happily surprised! (Lesson learned: always judge for yourself...someone's trash is someone else's treasure!) I love this book. As a second generation Italian-American I have a fascination with the island of Sicily, the home of my grandparents. I have visited my ancestral village and am in contact with distant cousins. Reading this book was like having a glimpse into the times, culture, customs, attitudes of all strata of society at the time when my grandparents were born. Remnants of these elements exist in the Sicily and in the Sicilians of today. The story was a wonderful weaving of the relationships...convoluted at times, hidden at times, volatile at times...of the aristocratic Safamita family and the tenants, servants, cousins, mafiosi with whom they interacted. The main character, Costanza, is a strong woman who often finds herself in the center of an intrigue that she doesn't understand. Her coming-of-age struggle to find happiness within herself is the action that carries the story. As the reader comes to know the individual characters, insight into the workings of the Sicilian culture are revealed...for better or worse. Yes, the pace was slow but so is life in rural Sicily. Memories hold forever, conversations are lived and relived, stories told and retold, honor upheld and defended, family preserved and protected. I appreciated the pace of the book and gained tremendous insight into an often misunderstood and misjudged culture. For me, it was a valuable read. ( )
  SignoraEdie | Mar 23, 2009 |
The Marchesa follows the life of Costanza Safamito from premature birth to death in late-nineteenth-century Sicily. The Safamitos are wealthy landowners grappling with dramatic problems, including incest, child sexual abuse, adultery, sibling rivalry, civil revolution, and the powerful Mafia. I enjoyed seeing this testosterone-charged world from the perspective of a strong female protagonist, but, given the exotic setting and surprising plot twists, this book was surprisingly slow-moving. Hornby haphazardly introduces too many characters, many of which appear only once or twice. This is distracting and interrupts the flow of the narrative. Hornby also maintains a deadening distance between the protagonist and the reader for most of the book. I never connected with Costanza or understood her motivations. Finally, the prose is awkward in many places (although some of the landscape descriptions are very well done). This prevailing awkwardness might stem from a bad translation, but regardless of the source of the problem, it detracts from the overall effect of the book. Ultimately, I quite enjoyed the last 75 pages or so because the pace quickened and the minor characters disappeared, but if this setting and story appeal to you, I recommend The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedeusa.

This review also appears on my blog Literary License (short reviews, real opinions): litlicense.blogspot.com ( )
  gwendolyndawson | Jun 18, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374182450, Hardcover)

A richly evocative tale of a woman's struggle for life and love
 
A triumphant follow-up to Simonetta Agnello Hornby’s internationally
acclaimed The Almond Picker, this entertaining new novel is an intricate family saga interwoven with violent passions, cruelty, deceit, and the abuse of power. The Marchesa is an eyeopening historical drama about a remarkable woman and her extraordinary family, and the complex, often abusive relations that mark the lives of master and servant, brother and sister, husband and wife.

Costanza Safamita, beloved daughter of Baron Domenico Safamita, is a precious but unusual child. Redhaired, gawky, and shy, she is considered an outsider by many on the family estate, but her adoring father makes her sole heir to the Safamita fortune, and then everything changes—for them and for her. Now she must conquer glittering, alien Palermo—where, uncertain of her future, she falls in love with a charming, dissolute young marchese whose sexual appetite she fears she cannot satiate.

The Marchesa’s brave, unusual story offers an unprecedented woman’s perspective on the incestuous hypocrisy of the Sicilian aristocracy during a dramatic time in its history, as the Bourbon monarchy collapsed, the Mafia rose to power, and Palermo’s decadent aristocracy began its inevitable decline. These themes are flawlessly woven into the fabric of Costanza’s triumphant life, so that The Marchesa becomes not only an unforgettable human tale but a masterly fresco of a vanished world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The Marchesa is an historical drama about a remarkable woman and her extraordinary family, and the complex, often abusive relations that mark the lives of master and servant, brother and sister, husband and wife." "Costanza Safamita, beloved daughter of Baron Domenico Safamita, is a precious but unusual child. Redhaired, gawky, and shy, she is considered an outsider by many on the family estate, but her adoring father makes her sole heir to the Safamita fortune, and then everything changes - for them and for her. Now she must conquer glittering, alien Palermo - where, uncertain of her future, she falls in love with a charming, dissolute young marchese whose sexual appetite she fears she cannot satiate." "The Marchesa's brave, unusual story offers an unprecedented woman's perspective on the incestuous hypocrisy of the Sicilian aristocracy during a dramatic time in its history, as the Bourbon monarchy collapsed, the Mafia rose to power, and Palermo's decadent aristocracy began its inevitable decline. These themes are woven into the fabric of Costanza's triumphant life, so that The Marchesa becomes not only an unforgettable human tale but a masterly fresco of a vanished world."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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