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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia Paperback – 8 Mar 2007


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Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia + Mafia Brotherhoods: Camorra, mafia, 'ndrangheta: the rise of the Honoured Societies + Gomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia
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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (8 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034093526X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340935262
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 3.4 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Dickie is Professor of Italian Studies at University College London. He is an internationally recognised specialist on many aspects of Italian history.

His works include Cosa Nostra. A History of the Sicilian Mafia, which has sold over 750,000 copies since it was first published in 2004, and Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and their Food (2007), which has also been translated into many languages.

His latest book is Blood Brotherhoods: the Rise of the Italian Mafias, scheduled for publication in June 2011.

For more on John Dickie visit: http://www.johndickie.net/

Product Description

Review

I couldn't put it down. His archival sleuthing is yoked to his powerful, often coruscating storytelling to create a chilling account of the mafia's sinister, horrific reality. (John Guy, The Sunday Times)

Riveting (Sunday Telegraph)

A readable, highly informative, admirably systematic account of how the Mafia attained its hold. (Times Literary Supplement)

Highly readable...compelling. The narrative is entertaining and, at times, as chilling as the darkest crime fiction. At its best, it combines compelling horror with clear, rational analysis of the moral and political failings, which, even today, give the mafia a seat at many top tables in Italian society. (Glasgow Herald)

Lucid...grimly readable. (Daily Telegraph)

The first truly definitive English-language study of this myth-laden subject, and it is a pleasure to read...his book is notable for shrewd judgements couched in language that is vibrantly memorable. His acquaintance with the island and his immersion in the wider modern Italian culture allows him to convey the noxious atmosphere of corruption with flair. (Sunday Times)

Monumental and gripping (Andrew Marr, BBC Start the Week)

Combines scholarship with a rip-roaring read (Sunday Herald)

Well-written...his findings are supported by careful research and copious documentation. Racy...contains some powerful stories, scenes and surprises. (Irish Times)

Book Description

The truth is more chilling than fiction: COSA NOSTRA tells, for the first time, the true history of the Sicilian mafia - now revised and updated to include recent events

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Irvine Walsh on 26 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I read one review here on Amazon claiming that this book is rushed and badly researched, and instead recommending Excellent Cadavers by Alexander Stille. I find these claims strange and irresponsible as Cosa Nostra is excellently written in fluid and engaging prose, Dickie's sources are as sound as a pound (the book features an extensive bibliography for a work of popular history), and Stille's (excellent) novel could not hope to fill the same niche as Dickie's.

Comparing Cosa Nostra to Excellent Cadavers is like comparing a Simon Schama book (ie, History of Britain) to an Alison Weir one (ie Henry VIII King and Court). Both relate to British History, but one is far more focused and specific than the other. Excellent Cadavers was an account of Falcone's maxi trial and it's fallout, whereas Cosa Nostra is a rounded history of the organisation. The clue's in the title (well, subtitle, but you know what I mean).

This is a novel worth reading. Don't be put off by the snobs who seem to deride everything accessible as being simplistic; this work is anything but, and yet eminently easy and enjoyable to read.

4.5 stars, so I'll round it to five, eh?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
The praise given by critics and reviewers when this book was first published in 2004 are easily understood and justified when reading it in paperback format. While many earlier books have largely relied on a review of recent Sicilian history and events post WWII (Norman Lewis, Claire Sterling) or focussing on a very specific area (such as Alex Stille's "Excellent Cadavers" on the story of investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino), this is the first real recent effort I know of in English to write a full history of the Sicilian Mafia under its correct name of Cosa Nostra. This is faciltated by the recent outpouring of Italian writings based on the vast amount of new information and evidence now available and which Dickie fully acknowledges in his book. In addition Dickie has also researched a number of historical sources and reports which have been largely ignored by previous English language writers.

What really places this book above the rest is:

Dickie has proven much better at covering the 19th century foundation of Cosa Nostra (and its earlier roots in Sicilian society) and then tracking this organisation's development of being a very tightly controlled killing machine exterminating any competition through the 20th century to date - the fact that nearly half of the book is devoted to the period before the end of WWII reflects this approach.

He has avoided the trap of spending too much time covering the US Mafia with its well known more public image and history, instead only referring to it as it actually impacts and helps our understanding of the Sicilian society's history.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. Wareham on 16 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up on impulse while waiting for a flight to Sicily to visit my girlfriend. I expected it to be another typical Mafia book, with rumours and gangster confessions related as fact - enjoyable but ultimately worthless as a historical study. However, what Dickie has actually written is a real, academically convincing history of the Mafia. The bibliograpy is impressive, while Dickie has also studied large amounts of official records such as court and police documents, as well as interviewing leading Sicilian magistrates.
The result is a study that conforms to the high standards of books I used during my History degree - analytical and thorough. Despite this academic rigorousness, the Cosa Nostra is a fast paced, enjoyable read. Dickies prose style is entertaining, definitely provocative in a number of places, but the more contentious analysis is always backed with convincing evidence. The descriptions of links between the Sicilian and American Mafia are well balanced, explaining their significance without detracting from the emphasis on the Sicilian side of things. The topic of political corruption is also well handled, especially 'the sack of Palermo'.
All in all, I would recommend Cosa Nostra to anyone with an interest in Sicily, the Mafia, the seedy side of Italian politics or just looking for a damn good read. I can also recommend a visit to Sicily itself - it has a wealth of stunning architecture, beaches and culture.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Groovieshoes on 15 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book to learn a bit more about the History of the Mafia in Sicily as I planned to go on holiday there & like reading about the places I am going. I expected the book to be a bit heavy in parts and possibly dry but good in other parts HOWEVER it was a total surprise it was a great book, totally absorbing from beginning to end so fascinating you wanted to keep reading and reading - I learnt so much I didnt know about this intriging subject. So dont be put off by the historical side of it - it is FASCINATING READ!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By b on 31 May 2008
Format: Paperback
The development of the mafia in Sicily over the last 150 years is described in detail in this absorbing book.
The challenge of writing about a secret, criminal fraternity is obvious. How can you be sure of the accuaracy of your sources and to what extent have popular perceptions of the Mafia been distorted by the media industry that has fuelled its reputation and its mystique? Dickie never fails to acknowledge the difficulty of such a task and never falls into the trap of allowing his writing to become melodramatic or unrealistic. This means that his tale has the air of authority of journalistic prose and brings to life the conditions in which the Mafia arose by focusing on the social and economic events that encouraged its development.
This means that the book is of interest not just to historians but to anyone who has an interest in Italian culture and society. Dickie makes clear his admiration for those who have fought against violence and corruption and whose integrity has prompted the recent courtcases against mafia leaders.The book is well written and provides both an interesting introduction to a controversial subject and a brave rebuttal of Hollywood's tendency to glamourise crime.
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