The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is an engrossing novel with menace accompanying every character, as we weave through a story of lives precariously entwined with the Mafia. There is a simmering threat and unrelenting revelation about abuse and violence, that clings to a people steeped in the DNA of the Sicilian Mafia. “You no know a thing. In England accident happen, in Sicily accident organised.”
Mary (Maria) left Sicily as a young girl with her mother and father, returning only on short trips until she started University. Her early life was marred by physical abuse from her mother and her aunt Peppina, leaving her permanently physically damaged. Presently, Mary has just retired from a teaching career, and she is wealthy, being married to a senior banker Humps (Humphrey). They have 2 Daughters and a Grandson, and she has integrated into the British way of life behaving as a refined Englishwoman, although some still see her appearance as a foreigner. The only connection Mary retained with her Sicilian background was with her facetious cousin Susi, at a similar age and as close as sisters. One day Mary gets a call from Susi asking her to meet with her mother, Zia (Mary’s other aunt). Zia was kind to Maria growing up and had immigrated to England shortly after Mary’s family, however, Mary hasn’t seen her aunt Zia since those early days, but she gives in to the request to meet. One quick meeting and she can go back to her normal life. Yeah Right! When they meet Zia pleads: “Yes, you come back tomorrow. You keep promise for Zia. I have friend. She have problem, she need you help.”
“We’re catapulted into this community, and through no fault of our own, we take the consequences. We try to figure out how to confront the dark side of life from childhood and through our teens when we don’t have the instruments to deal with it. And when you’re an adult, it leaves you with a painful black hole inside; and you’re forever trying not to go to that dark centre, moving around the perimeters and trying not to get swallowed up by it.”
Linda Lo Scuro does a remarkable job of portraying the ‘nature vs nurture’ dilemma that Mary faces and while she is a cultured English woman when we first meet her, she knows her wider family circle live amongst an unforgiving and relentlessly ruthless culture. How much of that ‘nature’ element will come to the fore when she agrees to help resolve a wider family matter and return to Sicily with her own family? The writing is excellent and the incidents described, the tension built, and the character interactions all have a feel of authenticity.
Through the first half of the novel it lacked a bit of pace, but when Mary and her family decide to go to Sicily the pace picks up and the plot is darkly entertaining. I really like the characterisation of Mary, as she has this deeper, calculated and revengeful side that has been hidden, even from her own family. No-one is to be taken for granted in this novel and surprises are sprung at unlikely times keeping the reader fascinated until the end.
I disliked the cover. Not a point I normally make but it didn’t convey the intent or nature of the story. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover because I would recommend this book.
I would like to thank Sparkling Books and NetGalley for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.