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The House at the Edge of Night

by Catherine Banner

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR

A sweeping saga about four generations of a family who live and love on an enchanting island off the coast of Italy—combining the romance of Beautiful Ruins with the magical tapestry of works by Isabel Allende.

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. At the center of the island’s life is a café draped with bougainvillea called The House at the Edge of Night, where the community gathers to gossip and talk. Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, finds his destiny on the island with his beautiful wife, Pina, whose fierce intelligence, grace, and unwavering love guide her every move. An indiscretion tests their marriage, and their children—three sons and an inquisitive daughter—grow up and struggle with both humanity’s cruelty and its capacity for love and mercy. Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness.

Siracusa

by Delia Ephron

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. With her inimitable psychological astute­ness and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.

Volcanic Airs: An English Comedy

by Elizabeth Aston

Where would you rather be? Lonely and fog-bound in an ancient English castle, or sitting under the stars with friends on a magical Mediterranean island? Magdalena Mountjoy, furious with her impossible husband, the rakish Valdemar, doesn’t hesitate when she has the chance to run away to Aeolus, a jewel of an island off the coast of Sicily. Yet every Eden has its serpent. As friends and relations arrive to share the bliss, fleeing from their own problems with life and love, Magdalena begins to wish herself back at Mountjoy Castle. Meanwhile Dido, once a dancer and now a nanny, listens to her voices and foretells just where this of complex dance of love and betrayal will end for her companions as they enjoy the idyll of an Italian summer. Love conquers all—but will it this time?

Stella Mia

by Rosanna Chiofalo

Rosanna Chiofalo’s poignant, beautifully written novel evokes the stunning scenery of Sicily and the Aeolian Islands and tells of mothers and daughters, love and sacrifice–and the choices that resound across continents and through generations. Julia Parlatone doesn’t have much to remember her Italian mother by. A grapevine that Sarina planted still flourishes in the backyard of Julia’s childhood home in Astoria, Queens. And there’s a song, “Stella Mia,” she recalls her mother singing–my star, my star, you are the most beautiful star–until the day she left three-year-old Julia behind and returned to Italy for good. Now a happily married schoolteacher, Julia tries not to dwell on a past she can’t change or on a mother who chose to leave. But in an old trunk in the family basement, she discovers items that belonged to her mother–a song book, Tarot cards, a Sicilian folk costume–and a diary. Sarina writes unflinchingly of her harsh childhood and of a first, passionate love affair; of blissful months spent living in the enchanting coastal resort town of Taormina and the unspoiled Aeolian Islands north of Sicily as well as the reasons she came to New York. By the diary’s end, Julia knows she must track down her mother in Italy and piece together the rest of the complex, bittersweet truth–a journey that, for better or worse, will change her own life forever.

The Shape of Water (The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Book 1)

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Andrea Camilleri’s novels starring Inspector Montalbano have become an international sensation and have been translated from Italian into eight languages, ranging from Dutch to Japanese. The Shape of Water is the first book in this sly, witty, and engaging series with its sardonic take on Sicilian life. Early one morning, Silvio Lupanello, a big shot in the village of Vigàta, is found dead in his car with his pants around his knees. The car happens to be parked in a rough part of town frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers, and as the news of his death spreads, the rumors begin. Enter Inspector Salvo Montalbano, Vigàta’s most respected detective. With his characteristic mix of humor, cynicism, compassion, and love of good food, Montalbano goes into battle against the powerful and the corrupt who are determined to block his path to the real killer. This funny and fast-paced Sicilian page-turner will be a delicious discovery for mystery afficionados and fiction lovers alike.

The Terracotta Dog (The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Book 2)

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Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano has garnered millions of fans worldwide with his sardonic, engaging take on Sicilian small-town life and his genius for deciphering the most enigmatic of crimes. The Terracotta Dog opens with a mysterious tête-à-tête with a Mafioso, some inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and some dying words that lead Inspector Montalbano to a secret grotto in a mountain cave where two young lovers dead 50 years and still embracing are watched over by a life-size terracotta dog. Montalbano’s passion to solve this old crime takes him, heedless of personal danger, on a journey through the island’s past and into a family’s dark heart amid the horrors of World War II.

The Snack Thief (The Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Book 3)

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Never has Inspector Montalbano’s character – a unique blend of humor, cynicism, compassion, earthiness, and love of good food – been more compelling than in The Snack Thief. When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily’s coast, only Inspector Montalbano suspects a link between the two incidents. His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished house cleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other school children’s mid-morning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief’s life – as well as Montalbano’s – is endangered when the inspector exposes a viper’s nest of government corruption and international intrigue.

La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture

by Lily Prior

Rosa Fiore — daughter of a sultry Sicilian matriarch and her hapless husband — always found solace in her family’s kitchen. When Rosa was a teenager, her own cooking became the stuff of legend in this small community that takes pride in the bounty of its landscape and the eccentricity of its inhabitants. Rosa’s infatuation with culinary arts was rivaled only by her passion for a young man, Bartolomeo, who, unfortunately, belonged to another. After their love affair ended in tragedy, Rosa retreated first into her kitchen and then into solitude, as a librarian in Palermo. There she stayed for decades, growing corpulent on her succulent dishes, resigned to a loveless life. Then, one day, she meets the mysterious chef, known only is I’Inglese, whose research on the heritage of Sicilian cuisine leads him to Rosa’s library, and into her heart. They share one sublime summer of discovery, during which I’lnglese awakens the power of Rosa’s sensuality, and together they reach new heights of culinary passion. When I’Inglese suddenly vanishes, Rosa returns home to the farm to grieve for the loss of her second love. In the comfort of familiar surroundings, among her growing family, she discovers the truth about her loved ones and finds her life transformed once more by the magic of her cherished Cucina.

Palermo: Travels in the City of Happiness: Art, Architecture and History in Sicily’s Ancient Capital

by Allan Langdale

This entertaining and captivatingly personal account of a week of urban adventures in Palermo is written with a profound love for the history of the ancient Sicilian capital, taking us on a succession of journeys through the city’s physical fabric and varied historical periods. In these pages Palermo’s streets, piazzas and architecture become eloquent witnesses to eras past; ages that live vibrantly on in Landale’s riveting accounts of everything from the palaces of the medieval Norman kings to the modern apartments built during the mafia’s ‘Sack of Palermo’ in the late 20th century. No stone goes unturned in Langdale’s explorations making it both an incomparable preparatory guide to the city or a wonderful book to curl up with for armchair travel. At times reminiscent of Bill Bryson, Langdale’s sense of humor is always in evidence, as when a shortfall in finances necessitates a dramatic downgrade in accommodations, or when he unsuccessfully tries to impress a state policeman with his less-than-perfect Italian. Langdale’s voice is fresh and inspiring, but he generously shares the stage with many travelers from Palermo’s past, such as the German philosopher Goethe, who visited the city in the late 18th century and the French writer Guy de Maupassant, who arrived in the late 19th. Even the famous painter Van Dyck spent time in the city in the early 1600s. We see the city through their eyes too, and find ourselves in a terrific company of numerous historical travelers going back 1000 years. Hovering like a benevolent ghost through the book is Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s famous novel, The Leopard, through which Langdale finds a profound spiritual key to Palermo’s fascinating past as he tries to reorient Palermo’s historical reputation from a ‘City of Tragedy’ to a ‘City of Happiness,’ a sobriquet it once enjoyed centuries ago.

Princes Under the Volcano: Two Hundred Years of a British Dynasty in Sicily

by Raleigh Trevelyan

Epic and engrossing, this extravagant true story covers 200 years in the life of an English family dynasty in Sicily. Benjamin Ingham, possibly the greatest tycoon England has ever known, was attracted to Sicily from his humble beginnings in Yorkshire by the burgeoning trade in marsala wine. This is the story of the English Croesus, who made the money, and his beneficiaries, the Whitaker family, who spent it – intertwined with 200 years of enthralling Sicilian history.