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August 15, 2005

The Almond Picker - Simonetta Agnello Hornby

An interesting novel set in Italy really provides an inside look at Italian life in the early 20th century. The story begins with the death of Mennulara, a maid in the service of one of the declining elite Italian families. She, however, held a uniquely powerful position, having for many years been responsible for family business affairs. Her funeral requests and panic over their ignorance of the source and status of the family fortune cause extreme distress for the Alffalipe children who are nothing more than spoiled and stupid adults. Mennularas friendships with Dr. Mendico, the town doctor and Father ----- the priest are the major means by which the story of her life is revealed to us. They seem to be the only people who know what an honest, trustworthy and beautiful person she is.
The incredible ignorance and immaturity of the Alffalipes carries through to the end and although one of them has some insight into the true character of Mennulara as she is remembering her childhood, none of them end up drawing any conclusions that are remotely accurate about her. They blunder through the book and go their destructive way.

An interesting part of the story is the political climate of this Italian town and the mysterious connection of the main character to the maffia. The influence and fear they inflicted on the general population is evident through the telling of this story.

Posted by Priscilla at August 15, 2005 08:48 AM


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