ON PERSEPHONE’S ISLAND by Mary Taylor Simeti

I bought this book because I plan to travel to Sicily next spring and am currently reading up on it so that I have as much understanding about this fascinating place as one can gain from an armchair, and also to prepare me for the actual experience of going there.

I was delighted to see that Mary Taylor Simeti had done a travelogue of Sicily, because I remembered her charming tale of Queen Constance and her various travels around Italy that I read some years ago. I was not disappointed in this book. Simeti plans her book around a year, starting with the old New Year that occurred November 1st, with the Feast of the Dead, and gradually working her way around the seasons so that the end of the book finished one year later.

Although she spends much time discussing her garden and her various meanderings around the Sicilian countryside with her family, this book is also a snapshot of life in Sicily during 1982-1983. I was a young woman then, freshly married, and her vivid prose enabled me to go back in time nearly thirty years ago, to re-remember events that I had completely gotten, such as the Italian government’s successful attempts to divert the lava flow of Mount Etna, so that it did not go into populated areas. (They did this using dynamite). But I loved this book because of Simeti’s relentless quest for the shadow of Persephone and the Greek civilization that existed on Sicily so many years ago. Highly recommended. Four stars.

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