Dear Friends and Readers,
I’d better put my cards on the table, I am an escape artist! When I read a book I do not want to hear about “non-fiction”: I want to escape reality and relax, concentrate to something that is not the daily matters we all deal with (work, laundry, Dodd-Frank Act implementation, stinky people in the subway, etc.). It is very simple: give me my 20 minutes of literary fiction and no one gets hurt.
One of my favorite writers, little known in the US but overwhelmingly popular in Italy is Andrea Camilleri. A Sicilian late bloomer who has been busy with something else (teaching screen play writing) for 2/3 of his life until he had an illumination. Said illumination was more a cast of characters that have become a part of the family to so many Italians that we actually feel they are real (or maybe they really are real we just do not know them). These detective stories take place in the fictional town of Vigata in Sicily and involve a small commissariato di polizia (precinct) led by Commissario Salvo Montalbano. He has an interesting team: womanizer Mimi’ Augello, clumsy Catarella, efficient Fazio, governess/cook Adelina (obviously my favorite) and her criminal sons, girlfriend Livia, who lives far away and temptress Ingrid. All the characters are depicted in a very lifelike fashion, so the stories, albeit a work of fiction are very real. Montalbano even speaks to himself like we all do from time to time in a fit of multiple personality disorder! The Italian books are written in Sicilian which makes reading them even more fun but the translation in English is VERY good. The translator captured all the color and effect that are so vivid in Sicilian dialect.
The first book, “The Shape of Water”, was an instant classic in Italy and throughout Europe. I remember reading it and feeling that the characters would have remained with me. And stay they did: I recently came back from Italy with the latest book. Whenever I go back or my mother comes to NY it is such a joy to find out a new book has been published. You start missing the characters after a while (I swear it is true, read it and let me know),
I recommend “The Shape of Water” and all the other books by Andrea Camilleri featuring Commissario Montalbano as one of the best summer reads for anyone who feels a little Sicilian inside!