Yes, I’m still reading light, just as feather-light as I can get. Back in 2014 I pursued a year of reading nonfiction, and it’s looking like 2018 may well be my year of reading light. (Reading lightly? My Year of Indulging in Guilty Pleasures? But that implies … nah. 🙂 No guilt! No. Guilt. #NoGuilt)


Where was I? Oh, yes. I cannot for the life of me recall, now,* where I stumbled upon Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, but I bought it, pulled it up on the Kindle, and I’m halfway through and loving it. Here’s the setup: “On her sixtieth birthday, Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily, intending to while away the rest of her days with good wine, a view of the sea, and few visitors. But Sicily isn’t quite the tranquil island she thought it would be, and something always seems to get in the way of her relaxation. When her handsome young handyman goes missing—and is discovered murdered—she can’t help but ask questions.”

Auntie Poldi, it should be noted, is German, born in Bavaria to a Munich police detective and his wife of Sicilian ancestry. Not unlike … the author Mario Giordano, one of Germany’s best-selling authors of fiction and screenplays, who was born in Munich of Italian immigrants. (On my birthday!) This is his first fiction translated to English,** brought to us by a London-based independent publisher, Bitter Lemon Press, which specializes in “high quality thrillers and other contemporary crime fiction books from abroad.”

The novel is written in a wry style with European in-jokes that has grown on me and that I now find appealing and hilarious. Here Poldi is going mushroom-gathering with her sister-in-law and the sister-in-law’s husband:

Like any private undertaking in Sicily, the playlet began with a delay of two hours or more. Sicilians can be as punctual as Prussians in the professional sphere, but personal arrangements are subject to an elastic expansion of the concept of time. It is as if those hours must be sacrificed to a demanding god who measures his subjects’ lifetime by the extent to which they waste the lifetimes of others. Besides, every sensible Sicilian allows a margin of at least two hours where private assignations are concerned, but Poldi still hadn’t reached that stage.

I’ve also enjoyed the characterization of Poldi. I identify with her! Especially in this passage, also on the mushroom-seeking jaunt:

Poldi surreptitiously swallowed two aspirin, stared out of the window and strove to ignore brother-in-law, sister-in-law and dog. A thought had flitted past her like a shooting star traversing the night sky; it had flared up and died, leaving only a fine striation on her memory. She suddenly realized that she had overlooked something, possibly something important, but she couldn’t with the best will in the world recall what it was. She fished out her notebook and searched for some pointer hidden among the entries. But nothing. Nothing save the faint skid mark of a brief flash of inspiration that might never recur. This disturbed Poldi beyond measure—so much so that all she wanted to do was go home and concentrate. But she could forget about that for the moment, because they had by now reached the target area for mushroom-picking.

Being in my seventh decade myself, I know well the maddening aggravation of the Brilliant Thought that Got Away, and this captures it perfectly. The writing is nice, too, yeah? Props to the translator (John Brownjohn***) as well as the author.

So I’m loving it. But this is not just a review lite. 🙂 A few weeks ago we were talking about literary devices—specifically about the device called authorial intrusion. And this is a fine example of it. In this instance, the narrator is Poldi’s nephew, a young man in his twenties, an aspiring writer who has been suffering from writer’s block.**** The family has been passing him around from spare bedroom to spare bedroom to give him encouragement and room to write. And thus we have this tale!

As usual, he simply turned off the road at some point and drove straight through the trees until the Fiat came to rest. Then they all got out. My Auntie Poldi, my Aunt Teresa, my uncle and Totti emerged into the cool, shady hush of the ancient oak trees, stretched their limbs, breathed deeply, and said “Ah” and “Che bello” the way one does when entering an old and almost pristine place.

See the authorial intrusion here? My Auntie Poldi, my Aunt Teresa, my uncle and Totti emerged … As I noted in my previous article, “authorial intrusion can add a quaintness, a comedic element, a winsomeness”—and that’s exactly how I feel about these little look-ins by the purported author, who mostly stays out of the story but occasionally reminds you he’s right there, living in Poldi’s attic bedroom and writing this story down day by day, as Poldi reports it to him later. It’s charming. And you might enjoy this book.

* It came to me later: the Times of London!
** He has had a book of essays translated to English: 1,000 Feelings for Which There Are No Names, which was born out of an intense bout of writer’s block. I’ve ordered it; there will be a full report later.
*** What a great name!
**** Again with the biographical similarities!


Tweet: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions: The novel is written in a wry style with European in-jokes that has grown on me and that I now find appealing and hilarious.
Tweet: These are notes by the purported author, who occasionally reminds you he’s right there, living in Poldi’s attic & writing this story, as Poldi reports it to him later. It’s charming.