The most moving debut novel of the year, shortlisted for the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Homestead is simply one of the most beautifully written and moving books it’s been our privilege to publish in years. It is also perfectly constituted to be a word-of-mouth bestseller (and its fate in the US bears this out; from very small beginnings at an obscure press in 1998, that is what is has gone to become, picking up the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Prize on its way to regional bestsellerdom in paperback).
Its focus is on the women of a remote Alpine village, where life revolves around farming – and more particularly, around milk and cheese – in a way it has done for generations. Though the sense of place is acute in the book, equally the experiences and emotions of the women at the heart of it are timeless. This community of a few hundred souls, where everyone not only knows but is related to everyone else, is, of course, the kind of environment that is fast disappearing in Europe – reminiscent of remote sheep-farming communities in mid-Wales or the Cumbrian hills or the Scottish highlands. This self-contained, traditional world is evoked with tenderness but without sentimentality or blinkers. The real world creeps up the mountain to the village all too often – for example, carrying off its menfolk to war, and blighting the women with more work still, and less aid. The book spans more or less the entire twentieth century, and puts at the heart of each chapter a different woman. The casual brilliance of Lippi’s storytelling can be devastating; the reader passes by a seemingly innocuous sentence, only to turn back and see blood and fire everywhere in it.