4 Books About Sicily You Need To Read

If film is not your thing and you’re still aching to travel to La Bedda Sicilia, these books will give you a taste of the island and the culture. Sicilian literature has a way of transporting you into another era. And that’s the beauty of the island – it transcends time. Here are four books that are either set in Sicily, written by a Sicilian – or both. Enjoy!

Il Gattopardo

Il Gattopardo (Italian Edition) eBook: Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi di:  Amazon.com.au: Kindle Store

Il Gattopardo, (The leopard in Italian) is the top selling novel in Italian history, and a must-read in Italian high schools and university literature classes. It won the Strega prize for best fiction in 1959 and was even made into an award winning film in 1963. Written by an actual Sicilian prince, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, it’s no wonder he was able to accurately create and follow the story of an aristocratic family in Sicilian high society during the Risorgimento. Prince Fabrizio finds his monarch of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies under threat from unification to join with mainland Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II. The prince, whilst undergoing major pressures to change or remain the same is also feeling threatened by local mayors as they yield to the same pressures and rise in financial wealth. Il Gattopardo covers a range of other themes during this time in Italy of the late 1800s being religion and of course love affairs. The book is predominantly set in north Palermo, but we also get a feel of the ambience in the regional town Santa Margherita di Belice – or ‘Donnafugata’ in the book.

Montalbano Series

Inspector Montalbano Mysteries Series 2 Books 11 - 18 Collection Set by  Andrea Camilleri by Andrea Camilleri

For all the logophiles/italophiles – this one’s for you. Sicilian writer Andre Camilleri’s famous crime series novels are written in a mixture of Italian, Sicilian dialect and Sicilianised Italian. If the play of language doesn’t entertain you enough, the story line of the main character Salvo Montalbano and his many tales surely will. Set across 27 published books, the popularity of the series stems from the humour of the character in such a ‘serious’ position as the commissioner of a small Sicilian town. Andrea ensures to make him recognizable and relatable, even sharing with us his food habits. More deliberately, Camilleri aimed for social commentary in order to demonstrate and criticize the social and political situation in both the Sicilian and Italian context of the time. Additional to this, we are also transported to the southern coast and get a glimpse of the provinces of Agrigento and Ragusa – named Vigata in the series. Throughout the series we also catch glimpses of nearby towns such as Modica and Scicli. Thanks to Camileri, Sicily’s tourism has bolstered like never before in the last decade. We can’t wait to visit ourselves – amunì!!

Giovanni Verga

Sicilian Stories | Dual language, Sicilian, Stories

Any book by Italian realist writer, Giovanni Verga will educate you and bring you face-to face with life in Sicily during the Risorgimento. There must be a reason artists and intellectuals flourished during this time. It would probably be because of the events and society rapidly changing around them. Perhaps we will understand after reading his “Little Novels of Sicily” which are short stories published in the late 1800s. Supposedly the poorest place in Europe at the time, we discover that it was due to a series of class struggles. Men vs land, property owners and the tenants, rich vs poor… In his books we find that Verga was challenged with his identity, in being an atheist, senator and lawyer from Sicily when the majority of Sicilians were superstitious, religious, uneducated and poor. Italy pre-unification saw many educated southerners leave their home and travel up to the industrialized North. It would have been a constant conflict between relating to the ambitious northerners whilst remaining an outsider as a ‘southerner’. Looking back at Sicilian history and novels helps us understand why there still is a strong divide with attached stereotypes between the North and the South. So real and insightful were his 33 works to the understanding of the complex Italian state, Italians eventually named the teatro Verga in Sicily after him and his birth house remains a museum today.

Sicily – A short history from the ancient Greeks to Cosa Nostra by Lord Norwich

Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History by John Julius Norwich

And lastly, a non-fiction favourite is this short history of the island itself. It delves into the rich, diverse history of this Mediterranean island which has been reconquered over and over again since the times of the Ancients. Although short and sweet, it manages to tackle the ins and outs just enough to leave you wanting more, but helping you get to the WHY of the mystery of Sicily itself. It was written by Foreign Service Viscount turned writer, Lord Norwich after his first visit to Sicily in 1961. To many today, Sicily is a southern city infamous for its beaches and traditional cuisine ranging from cannoli, arancini and ‘cosa nostra’ stories. But to many more, it extends beyond that. For anybody who has felt Sicily’s infectious cultural experience would have left the island surely with a broken heart and a teary-eyed smile.

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