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Midnight in Sicily: On Art, Food, History, Travel, and La Cosa Nostra Hardcover – Mar 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (Mar 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571199321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571199327
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,308,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"One of the greatest charms of Robb's book is his evident delight in southern Italy, particularly its food, which is recorded with such intensity of memory that one can almost taste it... As an introduction to post-war Italy, to the country as well as its politics, it can have few equals" (Caroline Moorehead Times Literary Supplement)

"Robb writes brilliantly about the cycle of violence in southern Italy. This unclassifiable book melds politics, the mafia, travel, autobiography and serious cooking" (Andrew Taylor Independent)

"I love this book. It left me in a sweet and sour mood of exultation, grief, despair and hope which lasted for many days" (Peter Goldsworthy Australian Review of Books)

"One of the finest books on the Italian south. [Peter Robb's] analysis is as riveting in its commentary on modern Sicilian life as The Leopard was to an earlier generation" (The Economist)

"Peter Robb manages to celebrate the literature, art, manners and food of an entire region. His book is a masterpiece of elegant, sceptical enquiry and a pleasure to read" (Ian Thomson Evening Standard) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Peter Robb's journey into Sicily is a wondrously diverse account of its art, culture, crime and corruption written in prose that feels as infected and beautiful as the island itself. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
I have been living in Sicily for many years and I can vouch for the accuracy of this account. It is all so true, I wish I could have written it myself. But I would never have had the courage. Thank you, Peter Robb, for having put together the pieces of the mosaic for us; the result is a chilling picture indeed.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By liz@contentworks.net on 23 July 2001
Format: Paperback
I read Peter Robb's capolavoro while on holiday in Sicily. My first two nights were in Palermo, where I noticed that once the shops close no one dares the time-honoured tradition of the evening passeggiata. And a day later, I read why, in Peter Robb's prose. You hear a footstep round a corner, a door shuts somewhere, but nowhere do you see the people. They vanish as night falls. What you sense in Sicily but can't explain, Peter Robb puts into words. It is better than any guidebook and the nearest you'll come to getting under the skin of the place. The book is a strange juxtaposition of topics. He can take you from a three-page history of caponata, quoting the Italian Mrs Beeton, Alda Busi, and Elizabeth David, to a harrowing account of Mafiosi murders, and all within the turn of a page. Yet none of this seems strange. I went from seeing women begging on the street with week-old babies in their arms to the jet-set Milanese within four hours - from Palermo to the Aeolian Islands in summer holiday mood. The book is both passion and sadness. The elements of life worth experiencing - in prose, even if you never have the chance to set foot in Sicily to experience them in the flesh.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Bowtell on 5 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback
I read Peter Robb's 'Death in Brazil', which follows on from this book. I guess Peter didn't feel very safe in Italy after completing his book, and in time honoured fashion fled to Brazil like all people who survive crossing with the mafia.

Like 'Death in Brazil' Peter outlines modern life in his chosen subject matter by crossing modern politics (and historical events) with his subjects culture and guiding ancient history. Robb comes up with all sorts of wonderful gems, such as the fact that the invention of the fork may have solely come about as a means of each spaghetti, a food invention created by Sicilians in the middle ages.

Unfortunately, where 'Death in Brazil' and 'Midnight in Sicily' part is where Robb gets too bogged down trying to explain the intricate connections between the mafia and the government (especially Andreotti's government - for which he was later tried for corruption in respect to his mafia connections). I think the main problem for Robb is that the relationship between Sicilians, Italy and the mafia is so intricately woven that not even he could easily explain the mafias accepted existence.

From a British perspective it is very shocking to see that another European nation is heavily mired in corruption and illigalities even to this day.

This is a good book, there are one or two moments when the chapters do not seem to close out as quickly as you would hope, but if you persevere you'll find this book a gem.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By a reader on 10 July 2006
Format: Paperback
I'd just read Lampedusa's dazzling 'The Leopard' when I spotted this by chance in a bookshop and got hooked while flicking through.

I really enjoyed it. As other reviewers have noted, 'Midnight in Sicily' combines all sorts of aspects of Sicilian life and history, from the development of the fork to domestic violence. It gives a lot of jaw-dropping, eye-opening information about the mafia, and about how Cosa Nostra's influence had spread to politics and the Vatican before its existence was even acknowledged.

The book deals mainly with the period of time between the 40's and the 80's, and I thought it was a pity that it didn't run up to the present day - although this would probably be impossible.

Robb's heart seems to belong chiefly to Naples, and I found the chapters on Neapolitan life perhaps the most interesting.

I very much liked Robb's writing voice. The author clearly had a wide and detailed knowledge of his subject(s), but he never lectured, and managed the very difficult trick of balancing his own experiences and observances with an objective perspective. He was informed, discursive, conversational, intelligent without being stuck-up. And some of his descriptive writing is amazing.

If I were to make any criticisms, it would be that there was just a bit too much detail for my liking, some of it repetitive; and also that although the book's main subject by a country mile is the mafia, the way the book is marketed does not reflect this.

Highly recommended.

(F, 31)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Nick Lincoln on 11 July 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every other reviewer gives this 5 stars, and I have to agree. I read this before my honeymoon in Taormina, Sicily, and found it unputdownable. Anyone interested in cuisine, the Mafia, corruption, EU / Italian politics, history and culture will find enough in this book to grip them. If, like me, you are fascinated by a lot of these variables then the book is fantastic. If the reviews lead you to think the book is too dark in tone, there are just enough positives to convince even a sceptic like Robb that perhaps Sicily (and indeed Italy) has confronted the cancer that is the Mafia. Cured itself, no, not yet.
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