I am going to digress from my travel log in order to review the latest book I read having to do with Italy – Solitaria by Genni Gunn. I actually won this book from The Italy in Book Challenge that I did in 2011 and finally just got around to reading it. I have a signed copy with a personal note from the author! I definitely am going to put this book and note in a safe place – it’s always so special when the author has signed their work.
Solitaria is a wonderfully written book which takes place in the present time, when the body of Vito Santoro is discovered by a demolition crew at an Italian seaside villa, and it digresses to memories of Italy in the 1940’s. La Solitaria (the solitary) is Piera, the oldest sister of a family of 5, who barricades herself in her room when the rest of the siblings come back home from their homes around the globe after the body of their oldest brother, Vito, is discovered. She feels that no one understands her even though she feels she has devoted her entire life to taking care of them and making sure that they were safe. She has a strong sense of duty and she believes that the rest of her siblings don’t realize that everything she did in her life was out of love and sacrifice. Instead she feels only lonliness and rejection. The discovery of her brother’s body after all these years is the right time for her to tell her side of the story of the family’s past and all their secrets, but she will only tell David, her sister’s son and favorite member of the family. During her private times with him, she pulls out letters that she has written and which she has kept locked up. She tells him about Aldo, the successful lawyer, whom everyone turns to when they are in need; Teresa, the dead brother’s wife and Marco, their son; Renato the rebel who lost Teresa to Vito; Mimi the spoiled youngest surviving sibling; Clarissa, the famous opera diva whom Piera competed with for attention; Daniela whom sadly was killed as a young child; Vito, the oldest brother and “black sheep” of the family; and her mother and father who faught with their own demons while trying to provide for such a large family. The family dynamics were at times loving and other times filled with jealousy and betrayal…and many dark secrets. Genni Gunn brings Italy of the 1940’s to life with her words, and I could hear the stories told to me by my own parents of the difficulties of living in Italy right before and during the War.
If you are looking for a book that keeps you interested page after page, while giving you some insight into Italy’s history during the Fascist Period, then you will enjoy Solitaria. I highly recommend it!