Marlena de Blasi and her husband Fernando are in Sicily for a magazine assignment, and decide to stay on for a few more days. They are looking for a place to stay for a quiet, relaxed vacation when someone suggests the Villa Donnafugata (‘Donnafugata’ means ‘woman in flight’ in Italian). Marlena and Fernando try to locate the villa, but find it very difficult owning to the fact that no one is willing to give them precise directions. Finally, they end up at a towering, beautiful castle without a name and feel that it is Villa Donnafugata. They enter the villa to find hordes of women – all dressed in black – going about their jobs with the precision of a well-oiled machine: some cooking, some chopping vegetables, some praying, some washing clothes. It looks like a nunnery or an organisation of some sort. Unsure of what to make of the place, Marlena and Fernando are confusedly looking around when Tosca approaches – a strikingly beautiful woman dressed in black, too, who oozes bravery and determination. Tosca indicates to Marlena and Fernando that they can stay on with them, a stay in the course of which they discover many, many things about the mysterious Tosca. That Summer In Sicily is all about Tosca’s life story, which she chooses to share with Marlena over the course of several days.
Tosca’s story is strange and dramatic – full of action. Many things have happened in Tosca’s life since she was a little girl of about eight or ten, and she relates all of them in detail to Marlena. The story reads like a cross between a fairytale and a very dramatic movie, and Marlena claims that it is for real. For me, it was difficult to really get into the story and view it as anything more than a movie unfolding before my eyes. I didn’t find, in this book, the sense of sincerity, the sense of all these events actually having happened, and the author having gone through them, as I did in A Thousand Days In Venice and A Thousand Days In Tuscany. But then, that could be just me.
The story did not make me turn one page after another, but I did keep on reading it till the end – because I desperately wanted to find out how it all ended. I couldn’t get lost in the words, feeling my heart sing along as I read, as happened with the two other books by Marlena that I have read earlier. I did not enjoy this book as much as I had expected to. It was not one of my favourite books by the author.
I have, however, read great reviews of this book around blogosphere, and so, it might be someone else’s cup of tea. If you have read this one, I would love to know your thoughts on it.