.. the second is that of possessions and the third is that of love. And if a person has three fine, long strands, then the braid is very beautiful and she will live a happy life.'
`What's the use of the old sayings if they're not true?'
Costanza is a skinny, shy young woman with flame-red hair. She is also the adored daughter of Baron Domenico Safamita. Their country estate boasts twenty-five servants, and the days glide by. `The bearing of the aristocrats had its own inborn elegance.'
But when Costanza is named heir to the family fortune, her life is turned upside down. In Palermo, Costanza meets Pietro di Sabbiamena, a charming, dissolute nobleman. She falls in love, and they soon marry. But there are all sorts of reasons why there is no `happy ever after' ending to this marriage and it is the explaining and exploring of those reasons which provides the story. Set in the upheaval of nineteenth century Sicily: the collapse of the Bourbon monarchy and the rise of the Mafia provide a backdrop for the decay not just of a family but also of the aristocracy.
There are many detailed layers in this novel, and some of them are easier to follow than others. But each layer is relevant to at least one of the stories being recounted. Costanza may be the main character but hers is not the only story being told.
`That's how our world is.'