Sunny Sicily was our reading port of call this February when MAF members read and talked about Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. We felt quite cosmopolitan as the book has been a best seller here, written by an author who is German, but is of Italian/Sicilian descent meaning that we covered three countries with reading one book!
The other quirky aspect to this story, is that the narrator, like the author, is from Germany, but with Sicilian aunts and uncles, and that the author really does base the narrator on himself, and his characters on all of his relatives. The most unique one being the title character Auntie Poldi. She is a fiery retiree who is a Bavarian former costume designer, and she intends to find a place to retire in Sicily where she can comfortably “drink herself to death with a sea view”. Fortunately for her (and her many book fans) a murder conveniently happens in her new villa – which naturally means she’s the one who needs to solve it. Between the case, the efforts of her affectionate, Sicilian in-laws, and her attraction to the detective in charge of the case – Poldi finds inspiration to continue living.
We found the style of this story and the unusual narrative both eccentric and appealing – but were split on our opinions of Auntie Poldi herself. While most of us found the focus on her black wig off-putting, some found her an inspirational model for being a retiree, and just a fun, quirky character to read about, while others were not taken by her, and thought she was annoying, and too much of a “Character”. We all agreed she does throw herself into the investigation with little to no justification for doing so. The fans of Poldi found this completely consistent with the kind of person she was, and she did have that fractional reason that her father was a former chief detective in Germany. Naysayers said this was one of the things that made it hard to read the story.
We wished there had been more in the story about Valentino, as the central victim, there’s really very little about him.
With this also being a series launch, we talked about the characters most likely to be on-going, and what we thought of them. We feel there were definite indications that the narrator and Valerie Raisi di Belfiore, the young woman living in the ramshackle country mansion, will be developed into a couple, that there will definitely be more on the three Sicilian sisters-in-law, and, we hope, the narrator’s truffle-finding Uncle Martino. Some also thought the device of having the narrator be a character was pre-emptive and took them out of the story. They advocate writing the following books in third person.
We had total agreement that it was again, a great armchair travel experience to take in the Sicilian countryside and culture – which we celebrated with cannolis and of course, chocolate and pistachio gelato. ;-)