"Italy in Books" - February reviews

Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011! What? You haven't joined yet? No worries, there is time to sign up until the very last day of the year...

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in February (via this link). I am sure that everyone will find it useful to learn about new and interesting reading ideas - in fact, I suspect that as a result of this challenge my TBR list will expand dangerously!

Whether you know the books that are being discussed or have never heard of them, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the blogs themselves. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not a mere competition, rather an opportunity to share ideas and bond over common interests!

And so, let's begin!

01. Monica read and reviewed The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric.
02. Stuart read and reviewed The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa.
03. Stuart read and reviewed If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino.
04. Stuart read and reviewed The Lueneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig. (Not set in Italy and not eligible towards the prize draw but listing it anyway as it sounds like a good read by an Italian author)
05. Barbara read and reviewed The Defector by Daniel Silva.
06. Ceil read and reviewed Hemingway in Love and War by Henry S. Villard and James Nagel.
07. Roberta read and reviewed Diario di una donna: inediti 1945-1960 by Sibilla Aleramo.
08. Roz read When in Rome by Gemma Townley. Scroll down to read her review.
09. Jeane read The Death of a Mafia Don by Michele Giuttari. Scroll down to read her review.
10. Coffee and a Book Chick read and reviewed The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland.
11. Scribacchina read and reviewed Archanes by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
12. Lynn read and reviewed Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler.
13. Scribacchina read and reviewed Friends in High Places by Donna Leon.
14. Juliet read and reviewed In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore.
15. Dorla read and reviewed Baudolino by Umberto Eco.
16. Gretchen read and reviewed Rambling on the Road to Rome by Peter Francis Browne.
17. Christy read and reviewed Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley.
18. Patricia read and reviewed The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby.
19. Laura read The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. Scroll down to read her review.
20. Lindy read and reviewed A Party in San Niccolò by Christobel Kent.
21. Parrish read and reviewed Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino.
22. Kathy read and reviewed Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant.
23. Lara read La Mennulara (The Almond Picker) by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Scroll down to read her review.

Reviews by non bloggers

When in Rome by Gemma Townley. Read and reviewed by Roz:
This is a form of International ʺChick Litʺ; a very predictable story of a broken-hearted Amercan woman seeking adventure and love in Rome. I found the story of a very immature female's escapades in Rome be very non-engaging and on the verge of complete boredom, therefore difficult to complete. There is very little to learn of Italy or the Italian culture from this blah-zay novel.

The Death of a Mafia Don by Michele Giuttari. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
My second Giuttari book about the head of the Squadra Mobile in Firenze, Michele Ferrara, was even better than the other one. It had me completely in control and I was excited even jsut thinking about reading on! Michele Ferrara lives in Firenze with his German wife and is head of the Squadra Mobile. It isn't much time after airplanes flew into the Twin Towers, the whole world is thinking about terrorism but at least Firenze goes on in its daily way. Michele Ferrara locked up a mafia boss not long before, but mafia wars haven't happened for some time and stay in the South of Italy instead of spreading to the North. During another normal morning, Michele is brought to work by his driver, who chooses different streets every day. On his way, Michele receives a phone call from the lawyer of the locked up mafia boss .... at the same moment as a bomb goes off in front of their car. Some Arabs around the place of the bomb lead thoughts to terrorism. But then, a second bomb goes off and everybody starts to understand that they aren't accidental bombs going off without real targets. Many ideas are heard, many paths followed but only on the last pages the key of the puzzle is found. This story had Michele Ferrara loose almost two important people in is life, maybe it is time for him to retire?

The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri. Read and reviewed by Laura:
‘The Shape of Water’ by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, is the first of several Inspector Montalbano mysteries. Set in Sicily, they are a slightly sardonic take on Sicilian life. In this novel, the Inspector works to solve the murder of a local politician whose body was found by local garbage collectors in a compromising position in a car in a questionable part of town. The coroner rules that the man died of natural causes, despite evidence to the contrary. However, against the wishes of his superiors, the Inspector refuses to sign off on the investigation, until after another murder, this time of a corrupt lawyer, brings things to a head. Inspector Montalbano’s character is a mix of humour, cynicism, and compassion – he is a bit of a maverick with a love of good food. The novel is funny and fast-paced, and with a cast of eccentric characters (including the two garbage collectors who have PhDs).

La Mennulara (The Almond Picker) by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Read and reviewed by Lara:

I have chosen to review this book because it takes place in the island where I live, Sicily, and because, as a Sicilian, I can say that Simonetta Agnello Hornby, the author, has perfectly described passions, faults and weaknesses of people living in a small village, Roccacolomba.
“La Mennulara” means “the almond picker”: who is this mysterious woman, protagonist of the story (even if she has just passed away)? She might be an ambitious woman, originally servant for the Alfallipe family and then administrator of their fortune; she might be simply a faithful servant, who remained close to her lady, Adriana Alfallipe, till the end of her days. Everyone, in the town talks about her; everyone keeps a different memory. She is admired, respected, hated. Why has she succeeded in becoming so important in the Alfallipe family and, overall, in the Roccacolomba life?
The writer is extremely skilled in coordinating different rumors about the mysterious Mennulara: yes, because this is the true protagonist of the story. It’s not the servant-administrator, it’s not the family, not other people, but the so called “curtigghiu”, in Sicilian dialect, the bad and, at the same time, funny habit that people living in small villages, especially in Southern Italy, have.
Let’s imagine I want to practice the curtigghiu…what should I do? Well, it’s easy: I simply have to observe something or someone and fantasize or, better, give my interpretation about what’s happening or what that person is doing.
In this story, the Mennulara has just passed away: who was her, is the dilemma to solve. The curtigghiu starts in the town … She was involved with mafia – someone says -, she was the lover of someone important – someone else suggests -… it’s difficult to admit she could be an intelligent and smart woman, who did her best to preserve her family wealth and to realize her dreams!
This novel is original and full of colors like a fresh painted fresco. Sicilian sceneries are made of smells, sounds, colors, people and curtigghiu.
Why did we, Sicilians, love so much this book, and give our appreciation to Simonetta Agnello Hornby? The reason is that we recognized us, our habits, our way of thinking in the book, and even if the story takes place in 1963, so almost 50 years ago, it is still incredibly authentic.

And remember, one January reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of this mouth-watering book! Buona fortuna!


  1. Oh my, it's only the first day of the month and already you have 4 reviews listed... Anyway, I just wanted to say that I vouch for Maurensig! The Lueneburg Variation is great, and his second book (Canone inverso) is also very good.

  2. Hi Scribacchina! I read Il guardiano dei sogni by Maurensig and I highly recommended it too. Sounds like an author to explore!

  3. Well they must be quick readers is all I can say :) By the way BB I would love to mail The Last Train From Liguria to you if you are interested?

  4. Thank you, Lindy! At the moment my TBR list for this challenge is quite full and I wouldn't want to take this opportunity away from other readers. If you've still got the book in a few (or more) months, we'll talk about it again.

  5. The defector sounds interesting, jsut as the luneberg variation. And one day I will read the leopard and not know it only by titles

  6. I'll be checking out these blogs - and I can't wait to post on my audio review soon! Have I mentioned how much I love this challenge? I'm going to Tweet this out again!

  7. Oh, already so many reviews... I was considering the idea to review Tomasi di Lampedusa's most famous novel, but I have just enjoyed reading the reference already done...
    I'll opt for another book...Italy is a great source of inspiration for novelists!

  8. What an interesting review Ceil! I start to become very interesting in reading the two books you mentioned. I read about Hemmingway at school, heard and read about him throught Laura and now these need to come in my hands!

  9. I just posted my first (January) Italian novel review for "When In Rome". I am planning on a much more recommended novel this month (February), "Dances With Luigi" by Paul E. Paolicelli. Thanks for this wonderful and most interesting, Italian literature-focused round-up; it's very unique! Roz at la bella vita

  10. The Passion of Artemisia sounds really good! I wanted to added on my tbr list but it was already on it. Very interesting.

  11. Does the book have to be a novel, or can it be non-fiction? - Paula

  12. Hi Paula! It can be anything you like!

  13. Aaargh!! I might not finish my book till tomorrow (i.e. March!) Will I still make the February cut?

  14. Hi Pete! Don't worry, you can submit it as your March review.


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