Marsala salines
Photo of Marsala, Sicily, by debsilver used under a Creative Commons license.

Andrea Camilleri, The Shape of Water (Penguin, 2005).
THS pal Stacy recommends the Inspector Montalbano series, of which this is the first:

I found these books irresistible, engaging and downright witty. These books evoke a modern day Sicily, but with a certain nostalgia for days gone by. The smells, colors and landscapes of Sicily come to life as Inspector Montalbano leads us down the back streets of [the fictional town of] Vigata whilst searching for clues to solve his cases or in his seemingly endless quest to partake of the perfect meal.

At once funny and clever, Camilleri’s novels are a welcome distraction from other less intellectual contemporary mystery writers (Kellerman, J.D. Robb, et. al.). Once one dives into Camilleri’s labyrinthine Sicilian backstreets, you will be in for a treat. And you will be begging for more. One might even be tempted to learn Italian just to devour those novels which as of yet have not been translated into English….

Here is Wikipedia’s page on Camilleri. Paul Bailey writes about him in The Guardian, and Michele Parisi writes about him in Best of Sicily magazine. Frank Bruni profiled him for The New York Times. This page, from a Camilleri fan club, gives a taste of his writing. Hillary Frey (The Nation) reviews the first four books in the series. Stephen Sartarelli translated the book jacket and this review by Carlo Vennarucci. Here are more reviews from Maxine Clarke, raidergirl3, Sue Magee, Orrin, Ayo Onatade, KarenC, Divers and Sundry, yan, adambowie, Yulian Suwanda, and Shonna Froebel.

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Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, Italy
Photo of Villa Romana del Casale by Neil Weightman used under a Creative Commons license.

Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard (Everyman’s Library, 1991).
Set in the 1860s, this is the story of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, with a long lineage of Sicilian aristocrats. The backdrop is the Risorgimento, the advent of a unified, democraticized Italy, a shift that threatens the Prince’s way of life. Poignant and elegant, The Leopard describes Sicilian life and society, painting portraits Don Fabrizio and those around him. A chronicle of historical change, and an elegy for old ways. Di Lampedusa spent years writing this, his only novel, only to see it rejected by publishers during his life. It was published in 1958, a year after his death, and has become a classic. (N.B. – There are different editions of this book, and I cannot recommend one over another. I gather they all use the same translation.)

In The Guardian (UK), Jonathan Jones writes:

“Lampedusa’s book has become a morbidly seductive guidebook to the island, its glamour and despair; the sensual revelling in decrepit palaces, burnt landscapes studded with temples, sugary pasticceria (Lampedusa spent a lot of time in cake shops) and the magnificent ball in a gilded Palermo salon that is so gloriously visualised in Visconti’s just re-released 1963 film of the book, make you breathe Sicily.”

Here is a bio of Di Lampedusa. Random House offers this excerpt. Wendy Lesser wrote about The Leopard recently in Bookforum. Others writing about it include Nick Owchar (in the LA Times), David B. Kenner, William D. Reeves, dovegreyreader, Jules Roskams, Bhupinder Singh, Welshcakes Limoncello, and Tom.

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