Six Degrees of Separation: Travel Books

First Saturday of the month and new year too, time for the super monthly tag Six Degrees of Separation, which is hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation #6degrees picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps. Links to my reviews are in the titles of the books chosen.

This month our starting book is… a travel book and for me that is:

Frommer’s Italy Day by Day

I haven’t been to Italy for too long! The Frommer’s guides are American so prices are all in $, however, this one from 2010 is excellent, if too heavy, but a full colour guidebook full of glorious photos, maps and itineraries. I shall use it to direct you on a grand tour of Italian locations, going from the north to the south. Our first stop is:

Italian Alps: Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini

This story of a cantankerous old loner, who lives in his valley up in the Alpine meadows, is a wonderful black comedy. Adelmo’s memory is beginning to fail so when he makes his seasonal trip down the mountain to stock up for winter, he is rather non-plussed by the store owner telling him he did his trip the other week already. He retreats back up the mountain where he is found by an old stray dog. Adelmo decides to let him stay (he could be food one day), and they settle in to wait for winter. Their only visitor is the young ranger, whom Adelmo is convinced is spying on him. As Adelmo and the dog get hungrier and hungrier, and Adelmo’s memory gets worse, the tale gets darker and darker in its humour. A prize-winning first translation from J Ockenden for Peirene books – highly recommended.

Veneto – Venice: The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini

A mystery romance set in Venice – what could be more captivating? The two protagonists meet on a plane. She, our unnamed narrator, a happily married Italian businesswoman and art expert from Rome, has come to appraise paintings for the auction house she works for. He is Mr Silvera, a tourist guide, accompanying a varied group of 28 punters on their Mediterranean tour. She never expects to see him again after he helps her with her bag. But she does and they embark on an affair, but Mr Silvera is a man of mystery, he has deep secrets which must stay hidden. It can’t last, but can they part happily? This was an absolute delight, with Venice a third star of the novel, ably translated by Gregory Dowling.

Tuscany – Nr Pisa: Game for Five by Marco Malvaldi

I’ve strayed away from the obvious Tuscan locations to a resort near Pisa, where Massimo runs the Bar Lume. His patrons include four octogenarians who play cards, eat ice-cream, bicker and interfere! When a drunk youngster finds a dead body of a woman up the road and the police don’t believe him, he goes to Massimo for help – landing him in the middle of things – and aided by the old chaps solving the murder as the police are incompetent. The story is told with great humour and I loved the interplay between the old men. Must find more in this series (transl. Howard Curtis).

Lazio – Rome: Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius 

Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman, appears rather daunting at first glance for the whole novel is written in just one 117 page long sentence, but once you start reading you soon realise that this is only due to the lack of full stops, for there are other punctuation marks, paragraphs and natural breathing spaces – so no worries. It is January 1943, and a young German woman in Rome is on her way to a Bach concert.  The woman is heavily pregnant with her first child, and is missing her husband who is on active service in Africa.  She walks through the streets of the Eternal City from her accommodation to the church, a stroll of an hour or so across Rome, and we go with her – in her head. Translated by Jamie Bulloch, it’s a charming portrait of a young woman in immensely difficult times that flows by and beguiles you. 

Campania: Pompeii by Robert Harris

I’ve used the Elena Ferrante books I’ve read too many times already in 6 degrees, so I’ve gone outside Naples, to Pompeii and Robert Harris’ novel encompassing the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD57. This was a book I read pre-blog, but I shall repeat the pithy couple of sentences I wrote on my spreadsheet… Reading this novel, one is reminded of the classic Monty Python scene in ‘Life of Brian‘ where, when asked “What have the Romans done for us?”, one of the rebels answers “Aquaducts.” Well, Harris’s impressive research teaches us all about them! Pompeii itself is but a minor character in this rather thinly plotted story. Enjoyable enough but ultimately forgettable. 

Sicily: Auntie Poldi and the Fruits of the Lord by Mario Giordano

We finish in Sicily with the second outing of an irrepressible sixty-year-old German lady who retires to her late ex-husband’s ancestral home in Sicily, hoping to “fulfil one of her dearest wishes: to die with a sea view. And family for company.” Auntie Poldi is very much the anti-Miss Marple, and manages to get herself into the thick of things viz local murders! You really need to read the first one first, to see how she meets all the recurring characters. The plot this time involves a murder in a vineyard, plots to own water rights, misappropriation of political funds and much more as Poldi blunders her way through trailed by her erstwhile lover the police Commissario, Vito Montana, and the course of love gets rather complicated. She’s great fun and there are two more in the series so far which I’d love to read. Giordani writes in German, transl. here by John Brownjohn.

I hope you enjoyed my tour of the length of Italy. Where will your six degrees take you this month?

12 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: Travel Books

  1. Helen says:

    I love your Italian theme this month – it’s such a beautiful country. I haven’t read any of those books, but I have Pompeii on the TBR and have enjoyed some others by Robert Harris.

  2. Davida Chazan says:

    I love Italy! And now it looks like my son will be investing in a hotel in Northern Italy, near the Swiss boarder. So, next time I want to visit, I might have accommodation already set (and only an hour away from Milan). Anyway, lovely chain.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    Brava! Un viaggio litterario in Italia, splendido! I’m currently also in Italy with Antal Szerb’sJourney by Moonlight for the #1937Club and engrossed in Mihály’s inner andnouter pilgrimages.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Grazie molto. The Szerb is one I’m considering too – but I also have an Ambler for 1937 – hard choice.

  4. BookerTalk says:

    In the absence of a real holiday in Italy this year your virtual tour is the next best thing. I’ve not read any of them but (apart from Pompeii) am adding to my wishlist

  5. Mary Daniels Brown says:

    I love this! My own post this month is all about Rome. I even had Pompeii as my sixth degree, but changed it at the last moment. Thanks for this well done Italian itinerary.

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