The subtitle of this book is An Inspirational Italian Historical Fiction Novel, and it is that, as well as being a clean fiction coming-of-age novel suitable for tweens, teens and adults. It is also a celebration of Italian opera.
In 1898, the world of opera was at its height of glory with new operas written regularly.
The story pauses at times to provide the reader with small histories of operas that appear in the book. Even some of the librettos are reproduced for the reader. And a choral work plays an important part in the story, just as it did in Italy's history.
The story begins in Sicily in 1897 and follows a young man along his life's path that is filled with love for his village, his father, and for opera.
Giuseppe's early years were filled with music, love and happiness. He enjoyed a carefree life living in Bellafortuna raised by a loving family: his father, Antonio, and his grandmother, Mamma Lucia.
Like all good coming-of-age novels, the protagonist, Giuseppe, discovers love and life and makes a momentous decision that changes his life forever, but in this novel Giuseppe does it all to a subtle accompaniment of operatic music.
The author brings to life a time when opera was part of every Italian's daily life. As the author says:
Musica, and especially opera, can touch a person's soul in a way that nothing else can. ... It can bind the listening audience together.
The author paints a picture of the era before motorcars, when agriculture provided the most employment. One gets the feeling of the slower pace of life. Journeys take longer. Distances feel greater.
Giuseppe's father, Antonio, treats his son to many trips, having the boy join him on business trips all over Italy, to places like Milan, Florence, Rome, Palermo.
...father and son would make their way back home to Sicily. Giuseppe would be filled with the sights and sounds of Italy and his father's wisdom, and Antonio's wine store filled with the purchases he made while away.
Through his journeys Giuseppe gets an education that is greater than the other villagers. He sees a bigger world where things change or are better than where he lives. This inspires him to try to help his fellow villagers.
The author has a stylized voice, giving the book a fairytale feeling. He uses very formal dialog, perhaps trying to better convey the era to the reader. There are Italian words in the text to remind the reader that everything they are reading is actually happening in Italy and in Italian.
There is a strong moral message in the book.
Never be afraid to stand up to the powerful. The alternative is fear and degradation.
The only thing I missed was an Afterword to explain what in the novel was history and what was invention. Some of this was explained in the book itself, but a little more at the end would have been lovely.
This is a gentle coming-of-age story with a happy ending. A young boy grows up to be an inspiration to his friends and family, and even his enemies. He discovers love and a purpose for his life. This is a clean novel suitable for tweens, teens and adults. If you enjoy Italian opera, or are curious about it, this book will have a special appeal for you.
From the book's description:
SHORT LIST FINALIST IN THE WILLIAM FAULKNER-WILLIAM WISDOM WRITING COMPETITION
A Song for Bellafortuna is an inspirational Italian Historical Fiction novel concerning a young man’s desire to free his Sicilian village from the domination of one family’s long reign.For years, the beautiful, yet secluded, hilltop village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, was a great producer of wine and olive oil. The entire village prospered. However, after the arrival of the Vasaio family, production dwindles and the villagers soon find themselves in crushing debt to the Vasaios.Only one family in the village remains outside the control of the Vasaios, but the reason haunts Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life. Antonio is determined to erase this legacy by offering financial and emotional support to his fellow villagers.He introduces them to the choral song from Verdi’s opera, Nabucco, which becomes the rallying cry for the villagers and offers them hope for a better life.
When Antonio’s only son, Giuseppe, discovers his family’s past, he becomes determined to take on the Vasaios and remove them from power. Led by the young Giuseppe, a plan is hatched that could result in either complete freedom for the villagers, or if it fails, forever solidifying the Vasaios’ control.
Find out what happens in A Song for Bellafortuna, a sweeping epic historical fiction tale of love, drama, sacrifice, and redemption, set among the beautiful landscape of Sicily.
The book's trailer:
Here are links to the book and to another novel by this author (reviewed on this site) at Amazon.com:
This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, the author of the crime-romance novel THE HAGUE, a traditional murder mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.