Friday, February 24, 2012

"Sicily, It's Not Quite Tuscany" - the best book title so far in 2012

by Shamus Sillar – Allen & Unwin - NZ$29.99
Watch for this title next week, publication 1 March.This is the story of a newly married couple and the year they spent in Sicily. Packed with history, culture - and plenty of misadventure - it will definitely make you laugh. It also has as much romance as an ordinary Aussie bloke can muster, and, of course, a little bit of Mafia action.
We spent a week on Sicily a few years back and this brought a host of happy memories flooding back.
'Gill and I had dreamt of living in Italy for as long as we'd been together.'
This is the story of an Aussie couple who sought a Mediterranean sea change only to find themselves in the sprawling Sicilian city of Catania - the 'anti-Tuscany' of Italy. There, any romantic visions they'd had of restoring a villa or stamping their entwined feet in vats of Chianti grapes disappeared faster than the chief witness in a Cosa Nostra trial.
Shamus and Gill's tiny apartment in Catania was located in a grim neighbourhood opposite a triple-X cinema and a shop selling coffins, nearby Mount Etna erupted soon after their arrival, a mystery ailment left Shamus in a neck brace, they crashed a Vespa and had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso.
About the author:
Shamus Sillar earned a PhD in Roman History from the University of Queensland and went on to teach Classics in China. At the age of 29, he left university to travel and write. After his year in Italy with his wife, Shamus worked as the managing editor of two lifestyle magazine groups, first in Shanghai and now in Singapore. Shamus has been published by the likes of National Geographic and Conde Nast.
Sicily, It's Not Quite Tuscany is his first book.
Just to give you a taste here is the opening page:

Si cacci lu sceccu, tardu arrivi; si camina tardu, prestu arrivi.
If you urge the donkey on, you’ll arrive late; if you let the donkey amble, you’ll arrive early.
– Sicilian proverb

I’m sipping arancia rossa (blood orange juice) and gazing down on the Mediterranean, its surface puckered in a westerly wind. Gill has given me the window seat; she always does – it’s why I married her.
An hour out of Rome, seven tiny islands appear, like the backs of swimming turtles. These are the famous Aeolians. In my best Italian accent, I recite their vowelly, singsong names from my map: ‘Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea, Stromboli, Salina!’ (My best Italian accent, it turns out, is part Joe Dolce’s ‘Shaddup You Face’ and part Gary Oldman in Dracula.) Then our plane is over the Sicilian mainland. I see parched rivers and russet hills; a landscape sucked dry by the sun.
Finally, Mount Etna. She’s dark and indistinct, swathed in cloud, keeping her cards up her sleeve. At the bottom of the volcano’s slope, sprawling blackly against the stained sea, a city: Catania.

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