Top positive review
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Warm and witty- a great homage to both Taormina and Sicily
on 23 March 2012
I had expected from the outset that this memoir would be a fascinating, informative read and very different from some of the other `place in the sun' type travelogues I am used to! Told by Daphne Phelps who inherits her late uncle's home in the Sicilian town of Taormina, it is initially set in the years post world war II. It chronicles her life from the arrival in the town and fifty plus decades of her inhabitation there and the changing face of the island. Warm and witty, it is a look at Sicily from an ex-pats perspective, but of a place steeped in proud culture and firm traditions, though Phelps' arrival does shake things up a little bit!
The narrative flows beautifully and is peppered with warm and humorous little anecdotes about Phelps and her day to day life in Sicily, as well as some of the trials and tribulations she has to overcome, including amongst other things, ingratiating herself with the local mafia! Though a lot of it contains a wealth of historical knowledge and local customs and traditions it is never dry. Phelps comes across as a warm hearted and gracious lady and it is clear just how highly she was regarded by her adopted town, as well as by some of the artist and writer friends she would later entertain at Casa Cuseni.
If I had to criticise anything about this book, I suppose it would be the fact that Phelps introduces a very large cast of characters and it does become confusing as to who is who at times and her relationship to them. Personally, I would have also liked to learn a little bit more about some of her more famous house guests- particularly Roald Dahl. I would have also liked to learn a little bit more about some of the Sicilian cuisine. This is only a very small criticism though, as on the whole I found this novel to be a charming and fascinating look at life in post-War Sicily, especially from an independent woman's point of view!
Though this author sadly died in 2005, this book nevertheless remains a wonderful testament to both her and her devotion to Casa Cuseni and Sicily itself. I would recommend it if you enjoy well-written travel writing or have a particular affinity with Sicily and its people.