Almond Picker

( 1 )

Overview

The child of poor farmers, La Mennulara became a maid for a well-to-do local family when she was only a girl; by dint of hard work and intelligence, she became the indispensable administrator of the family's affairs. Still, she was a mere servant, and now (as this story begins) she is dead.

As the details unfold about this mysterious woman, The Almond Picker assumes the witty suspense of a thriller, the emotional power of a love story, and the evocative atmosphere of a ...

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Overview

The child of poor farmers, La Mennulara became a maid for a well-to-do local family when she was only a girl; by dint of hard work and intelligence, she became the indispensable administrator of the family's affairs. Still, she was a mere servant, and now (as this story begins) she is dead.

As the details unfold about this mysterious woman, The Almond Picker assumes the witty suspense of a thriller, the emotional power of a love story, and the evocative atmosphere of a historical novel. Set in Sicily in the 1960s, a violent, complicated society in the midst of tumultuous change, The Almond Picker is the story of a woman who negotiated for her freedom as no one else dared.

Winner of the Casino de Santiago Prize for Best European Novel, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A classic Sicilian novel [in its] skeptical view of human goodness and a surprising tenderness for those on the lower, slippery rungs of the social ladder."—Los Angeles Times

"With impressive technical skill, first-time author Hornby introduces a raft of characters [and] a series of mysteries satisfyingly solved in a well-crafted narrative. . . . Surprisingly moving."—The Washington Post

"This is at heart a potboiler, but Alastair McEwen's translation preserves its dark and bitter Italian flavor."—Booklist

Los Angeles Times

A classic Sicilian novel [in its] skeptical view of human goodness and a surprising tenderness for those on the lower, slippery rungs of the social ladder.
The Washington Post

With impressive technical skill, first-time author Hornby introduces a raft of characters [and] a series of mysteries satisfyingly solved in a well-crafted narrative. . . . Surprisingly moving.
Booklist

This is at heart a potboiler, but Alastair McEwen's translation preserves its dark and bitter Italian flavor.
Wendy Smith
With impressive technical skill, first-time author Hornby introduces a raft of characters in the first few chapters, laying out the intricate network of social relationships that enfolded Mennulara and the family she served … Rather than waxing indignant over the injustices that scarred Mennulara's life, Hornby invites us to appreciate the resilience and tenacity with which she confronted them. Whether or not she ever found real happiness -- that's the one question that remains tantalizingly unanswered -- the almond picker certainly carved out her own special niche in the stony, resistant Sicilian landscape.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
It is 1963, and in the Sicilian town of Roccacolomba, the servant of a prominent family has just died. She is nicknamed Mennulara-Italian for "almond picker"-and her elusive past fuels this debut novel, a bestseller in Italy. Mennulara served in the Alfallipe household and took over the handling of the family's estates, restoring their dwindling fortunes. What should by rights have earned her the family's respect instead made her feared and despised. The novel's plot is both convoluted and curiously flat. After Mennulara dies, the three grown Alfallipe children-all wealthy and selfish, of course-balk at executing her eccentric will precisely, their bad behavior relayed via gossip and flashbacks by a hodgepodge of stock characters (the empathetic spinster; the self-serving Communist; the magnanimous doctor). Events involving the town's Mafia boss pressure the Alfallipes to do as Mennulara requested, and eventually her mysterious legacy is revealed. This is, at bottom, a novel about inheritance law, and for all the quaintness of its particulars-the Italian hillside, siesta culture, tyrannical husbands-it is dull, its dialogues doubling as plot summary, its prose resembling the mundane detail of a legal deposition. The book's combination of family wrangling and hot climate melodrama places it in the tradition of Isabel Allende's sagas and Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, but it lacks their sensuality and narrative power. Agent, Gillon Aitken (U.K.). (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Set in the author's native Italy, this prize-winning first novel takes place after the death of Maria Rosalia Inzerillo (known as Mennulara), the title character and longtime servant to the Sicilian Alfallipe family. Much happens in one month as the town wonders why a servant is given such an elaborate funeral, why the local Mafia boss attends, why the family seems to be coming apart at the seams, and where the missing inheritance is hidden. Gossip is woven into a narrative that gradually reveals how the lowly Mennulara came to administer the estate belonging to one of the town's most prominent families. Throughout, Hornby perfectly captures the ambiance of a tiny Sicilian town. With a cast of characters recalling books as disparate as Gabriel Garcia Murquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude or Mario Puzo's The Godfather and as full of secret codes as Don Brown's The DaVinci Code, this is sure to be a popular read. Recommended for all libraries and a likely pick for reading groups. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/04.]-Leann Restaino, Jameson Health Syst., New Castle, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A morality tale unravels the mystery of an unlikely peasant girl and her Sicilian community. Who was Mennulara, the spinster-maid of the Alfallipe family, who ran its finances and gave shelter to its widow after Judge Alfallipe died? Now that Mennulara herself is dead, tongues are wagging in the hill town of Roccacolomba. Was she a fine person or a servant-mistress with airs above her station? And why did the local mafia capo attend her funeral? Over the ensuing thirty days, every class, from priest to postal worker, will have something to contribute, in the way of reminiscence, observation, or judgment, while the snobbish Alfallipe family falls apart. First, they squabble over Mennulara's instructions about her funeral notice. Then they cause a scene at the post office, in search of the monthly allowance she used to pay them. Their stereotypical foolishness reaches a high point over her posthumous instructions to arrange the valuation of eight previously hidden crates of Greek vases. When the museum declares them fakes, the enraged masters smash all the antiquities discovered in their library, cursing Mennulara for investing in worthless copies and eventually coming to blows among themselves. A subsequent letter explains Mennulara's cunning plan: the export license granted for the fake vases could have been used to send the real ones-now in bits-out of the country, to be sold for a fortune. Additional gossip among village worthies reveals that Mennulara had been the mistress of Judge Alfallipe and his greatest love, but the true explanation for her untouchability and Midas touch arose from her teenage rape by the son of the mafia boss, Don Vincenzo Ancona. Twenty years after the event,the don did not refuse the offer she made him: continued silence in exchange for protection, investment advice, and respect. Now her money will fund a music competition. What are you gonna do?More Clochemerle than The Leopard, Hornby's debut deals in types, cliche, and picturesque charm.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312425067
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 2/21/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,150,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author


SIMONETTA AGNELLO HORNBY was born in Palermo and studied law in England, where she now lives. She is also the author of The Almond Picker.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Copyright © 2002 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore Milano. To be published in March, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


1. Dr. Mendicò attends a dying patient

Dr. Mendicò suddenly felt exhausted, his legs stiff and his arms tingling. He had been in the same position for over an hour, Mennulara's hands clasped between his, ceaselessly caressing her fingers with a delicate circular movement. He lifted his right hand, leaving his left--in which the deceased's hands lay, still warm--palm up on the sheet.

It was a solemn moment, which he knew well and which always moved him: the final task of a doctor defeated by death. Delicately, he closed her eyes. Then he arranged her hands, interlacing her fingers, laid them carefully on her breast, smoothed out the sheet, and drew it up to cover her shoulders before, finally getting up to inform the Alfallipe family that Mennulara was dead.

He stayed with them for as long as was necessary, gave Gianni Alfallipe the envelope containing the dead woman's last wishes, and hurried down the stairs of the small apartment block, coming across women neighbours on their way up to offer condolences. He had felt stifled in that flat; as soon as he went out the front door he walked off with small, slow steps, filling his lungs with the still-fresh morning air. The street was only a few dozen yards long but seemed longer because it was narrow and full of corners formed by the two- and three-storey buildings that over the centuries had proliferated at random, piling up one on top of the other and engulfing theearlier houses until they merged into what were two almost contiguous uneven walls, pierced only by two arches, like a tunnel, through which passed one of the many meandering flights of steps that formed the street network of Roccacolomba, a typical inland town clinging to the side of a mountain.

All at once Dr. Mendicòch remembered that he had not wound a rosary around the dead woman's fingers, as was the custom. In his mind's eye he revisited Mennulara's bedroom trying to work out how this oversight had occurred. It was an austere little room with only the basic necessities: a bed, a chair, a wardrobe, a lamp and a radio on the bedside table, and a narrow table that served as a writing desk, on which sat a metal tray holding pens, pencils, and a large eraser, arranged in perfect order. On the shelf were two photographs of her nephews and a rather faded shot of her parents, some notepads, and few books. The walls were bare, apart from a reproduction of Ferretti's Madonna and Child above the bed. Missing in the room were the feminine touches and the religious ingredients: the hodgepodge of holy images, statuettes of the Virgin and the local saints, and those bottles full of holy water brought home from far places that pile up on women's bedside tables; there wasn't even a rosary. Despite this, Mennulara's bedroom had given him the feeling of being permeated with a deep, almost monastic piety.

The strip of sky carved out by the irregular pointed roofs was dazzlingly bright, with only a hint of blue. The doctor stopped, took a deep breath, and looked up, staring intensely at the sky. "Who knows where her soul has flown? May God give her peace," he said softly before setting off again to take the steps that went down towards his house. The convent bell struck eleven. Dr. Mendicò thought he would have enough time before lunch to make the necessary telephone calls, have a coffee, and take a stroll: he needed to be on his own, to think. "Not even an old doctor like me gets used to death," he murmured to himself as he rang the doorbell of his home.

After seeing Dr. Mendicò to the door, Gianni went back into the living room. His sisters and mother were waiting for him in silence. Santa, the maid, did not dare go in, out of respect for the family and in accordance with Mennulara's orders. But she could not restrain her curiosity, and so she lingered in the corridor, leaning against the kitchen door, her face drawn and still wet with tears, her arms limp against her hips, and her ears cocked to pick up snatches of the conversation.

Signora Alfallipe was slumped in the armchair, her head thrown back, her eyes full of tears, her gaze vacant. Lilla was perched on the armrest, caressing her mother's forehead. Carmela was looking out from the balcony, waiting for her husband to arrive. "What did the doctor give you?" asked Lilla. Gianni showed her the envelope with his name written on it in Mennulara's large, untidy hand. At her sister's words Carmela turned to look at them. When she saw the letter, she rushed over, exclaiming, "It'll be the will. Don't open it; we must wait for Massimo," and, in an ever shriller voice, crying over and over, "We must wait for Massimo." Signora Alfallipe began to weep, feebly repeating, as if reciting a litany, "I knew Mennù would think of me; she really cared for me." Lilla and Gianni would have liked to open the envelope immediately, but they didn't dare, nor did they have time to argue with their sister, because Santa and the women neighbours burst into the room all at once, gesticulating and offering noisy condolences. The moment she saw them, signora Alfallipe dissolved into uncontrollable sobs and was instantly surrounded by the consoling women. "What will become of me? Mennù took good care of me. What shall I do now? Ill as I am..."

The Alfallipes were all hugged and kissed one by one, clasped in long embraces that left them smeared with the sweat of the women's armpits and the smell of the food they had been preparing: a blend of garlic, olive oil, tomato, parsley, and bread crumbs, an age-old odour that united the family in their disgust for the lower classes.

Lilla shuddered at the thought that, since her father's death, her mother had been living here in the same building as a fish merchant, the Alfallipe family's electrician, and some paper shuffler. She blessed the good fortune that had taken her to Rome, far from this vile town. Concealing her irritation, Lilla, after the last foul-smelling embrace, told the women that her mother was feeling ill and faint; luckily, Dr. Mendicò had given her some medicine and had prescribed bed rest. She and Carmela did not want to leave her alone, distraught as she was, and they would retire with her: the good ladies were welcome to go into the room where Mennulara was lying and to help Santa prepare the body, if they so wished, while the daughters would take care of their mother, who was so much in need of them at this distressing time.

Signora Alfallipe, by way of confirming these words--after all, being a doctor's wife, Lilla could speak with a certain authority about such things--slumped even lower into the chair, spreading out her arms and letting her hands dangle over the armrests, her head still lolling against the back. She started murmuring again, "I feel ill; I'm going to faint," whereupon the three children and Santa ran to her. At that point, they could not avoid the solicitous concern of the women, who bustled about dispensing advice. They carried signora Alfallipe to her bed, and each did her best to make the older woman comfortable: one brought a glass of water, another placed a damp towel on her forehead, another put a pillow behind her shoulders, and yet another took her pulse. Signora Alfallipe, gratified by their solicitude and worried lest any improvement might deprive her of the attention she was enjoying, increased her lamentations. It was then that her son-in-law arrived.

After Santa had telephoned that morning, waking them, to announce that Mennulara was dying, Massimo Leone had not dared accompany Carmela to the flat. He had opted to stay in Alfallipe House, a few minutes away, to await developments. Only when Carmela called him to say that the woman was in a coma did he feel he might be allowed to join her. Instinctively, he had complied with Mennulara's order: "I swear on my mother's soul that in my home, where I live, he shall not set foot"--an authentic excommunication. Massimo had been married to Carmela for seven years, and he was not even allowed to set foot in the entrance to the building or to call his wife when she was visiting her mother in Mennulara's flat. He had hated that damned Mennulara with a powerful hatred, and he hated her still. Now, finally, she was dead. Massimo felt liberated. He bounded up the stairs in a state of elation mixed with resentment: he would see her corpse, but he wouldn't be able to spit on it, as she deserved, because, judging by the chatter he could hear from the stairs, it was clear that people had already arrived to pay their respects.
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First Chapter

Excerpt from The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Copyright © 2002 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore Milano. To be published in March, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


1. Dr. Mendicò attends a dying patient


Dr. Mendicò suddenly felt exhausted, his legs stiff and his arms tingling. He had been in the same position for over an hour, Mennulara's hands clasped between his, ceaselessly caressing her fingers with a delicate circular movement. He lifted his right hand, leaving his left--in which the deceased's hands lay, still warm--palm up on the sheet.

It was a solemn moment, which he knew well and which always moved him: the final task of a doctor defeated by death. Delicately, he closed her eyes. Then he arranged her hands, interlacing her fingers, laid them carefully on her breast, smoothed out the sheet, and drew it up to cover her shoulders before, finally getting up to inform the Alfallipe family that Mennulara was dead.

He stayed with them for as long as was necessary, gave Gianni Alfallipe the envelope containing the dead woman's last wishes, and hurried down the stairs of the small apartment block, coming across women neighbours on their way up to offer condolences. He had felt stifled in that flat; as soon as he went out the front door he walked off with small, slow steps, filling his lungs with the still-fresh morning air. The street was only a few dozen yards long but seemed longer because it was narrow and full of corners formed by the two- and three-storey buildings that over the centuries had proliferated at random, piling up one on top of the other and engulfing theearlier houses until they merged into what were two almost contiguous uneven walls, pierced only by two arches, like a tunnel, through which passed one of the many meandering flights of steps that formed the street network of Roccacolomba, a typical inland town clinging to the side of a mountain.

All at once Dr. Mendicò remembered that he had not wound a rosary around the dead woman's fingers, as was the custom. In his mind's eye he revisited Mennulara's bedroom trying to work out how this oversight had occurred. It was an austere little room with only the basic necessities: a bed, a chair, a wardrobe, a lamp and a radio on the bedside table, and a narrow table that served as a writing desk, on which sat a metal tray holding pens, pencils, and a large eraser, arranged in perfect order. On the shelf were two photographs of her nephews and a rather faded shot of her parents, some notepads, and few books. The walls were bare, apart from a reproduction of Ferretti's Madonna and Child above the bed. Missing in the room were the feminine touches and the religious ingredients: the hodgepodge of holy images, statuettes of the Virgin and the local saints, and those bottles full of holy water brought home from far places that pile up on women's bedside tables; there wasn't even a rosary. Despite this, Mennulara's bedroom had given him the feeling of being permeated with a deep, almost monastic piety.

The strip of sky carved out by the irregular pointed roofs was dazzlingly bright, with only a hint of blue. The doctor stopped, took a deep breath, and looked up, staring intensely at the sky. "Who knows where her soul has flown? May God give her peace," he said softly before setting off again to take the steps that went down towards his house. The convent bell struck eleven. Dr. Mendicò thought he would have enough time before lunch to make the necessary telephone calls, have a coffee, and take a stroll: he needed to be on his own, to think. "Not even an old doctor like me gets used to death," he murmured to himself as he rang the doorbell of his home.


After seeing Dr. Mendicò to the door, Gianni went back into the living room. His sisters and mother were waiting for him in silence. Santa, the maid, did not dare go in, out of respect for the family and in accordance with Mennulara's orders. But she could not restrain her curiosity, and so she lingered in the corridor, leaning against the kitchen door, her face drawn and still wet with tears, her arms limp against her hips, and her ears cocked to pick up snatches of the conversation.

Signora Alfallipe was slumped in the armchair, her head thrown back, her eyes full of tears, her gaze vacant. Lilla was perched on the armrest, caressing her mother's forehead. Carmela was looking out from the balcony, waiting for her husband to arrive. "What did the doctor give you?" asked Lilla. Gianni showed her the envelope with his name written on it in Mennulara's large, untidy hand. At her sister's words Carmela turned to look at them. When she saw the letter, she rushed over, exclaiming, "It'll be the will. Don't open it; we must wait for Massimo," and, in an ever shriller voice, crying over and over, "We must wait for Massimo." Signora Alfallipe began to weep, feebly repeating, as if reciting a litany, "I knew Mennù would think of me; she really cared for me." Lilla and Gianni would have liked to open the envelope immediately, but they didn't dare, nor did they have time to argue with their sister, because Santa and the women neighbours burst into the room all at once, gesticulating and offering noisy condolences. The moment she saw them, signora Alfallipe dissolved into uncontrollable sobs and was instantly surrounded by the consoling women. "What will become of me? Mennù took good care of me. What shall I do now? Ill as I am..."

The Alfallipes were all hugged and kissed one by one, clasped in long embraces that left them smeared with the sweat of the women's armpits and the smell of the food they had been preparing: a blend of garlic, olive oil, tomato, parsley, and bread crumbs, an age-old odour that united the family in their disgust for the lower classes.

Lilla shuddered at the thought that, since her father's death, her mother had been living here in the same building as a fish merchant, the Alfallipe family's electrician, and some paper shuffler. She blessed the good fortune that had taken her to Rome, far from this vile town. Concealing her irritation, Lilla, after the last foul-smelling embrace, told the women that her mother was feeling ill and faint; luckily, Dr. Mendicò had given her some medicine and had prescribed bed rest. She and Carmela did not want to leave her alone, distraught as she was, and they would retire with her: the good ladies were welcome to go into the room where Mennulara was lying and to help Santa prepare the body, if they so wished, while the daughters would take care of their mother, who was so much in need of them at this distressing time.

Signora Alfallipe, by way of confirming these words--after all, being a doctor's wife, Lilla could speak with a certain authority about such things--slumped even lower into the chair, spreading out her arms and letting her hands dangle over the armrests, her head still lolling against the back. She started murmuring again, "I feel ill; I'm going to faint," whereupon the three children and Santa ran to her. At that point, they could not avoid the solicitous concern of the women, who bustled about dispensing advice. They carried signora Alfallipe to her bed, and each did her best to make the older woman comfortable: one brought a glass of water, another placed a damp towel on her forehead, another put a pillow behind her shoulders, and yet another took her pulse. Signora Alfallipe, gratified by their solicitude and worried lest any improvement might deprive her of the attention she was enjoying, increased her lamentations. It was then that her son-in-law arrived.

After Santa had telephoned that morning, waking them, to announce that Mennulara was dying, Massimo Leone had not dared accompany Carmela to the flat. He had opted to stay in Alfallipe House, a few minutes away, to await developments. Only when Carmela called him to say that the woman was in a coma did he feel he might be allowed to join her. Instinctively, he had complied with Mennulara's order: "I swear on my mother's soul that in my home, where I live, he shall not set foot"--an authentic excommunication. Massimo had been married to Carmela for seven years, and he was not even allowed to set foot in the entrance to the building or to call his wife when she was visiting her mother in Mennulara's flat. He had hated that damned Mennulara with a powerful hatred, and he hated her still. Now, finally, she was dead. Massimo felt liberated. He bounded up the stairs in a state of elation mixed with resentment: he would see her corpse, but he wouldn't be able to spit on it, as she deserved, because, judging by the chatter he could hear from the stairs, it was clear that people had already arrived to pay their respects.
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Reading Group Guide

1. What are your initial impressions of Mennulara, based on the observations provided in the first chapter? How would you characterize the various reactions to her death?

2. Discuss the novel's narrative voice. How does this tone serve to balance the tragic and comic elements of life in Roccacolomba? In what way does Simonetta Agnello Hornby make us members of a conversation club?

3. Consider the temperaments of the Alfallipe children: Lilla, Gianni, and Carmela. How will each of them remember Mennulara? How does Mennulara seem to have felt about them?

4. The early 1960s proved to be a time of political transition in Italy. As the country emerged from World War II and dealt with the remnants of prewar Fascism, other political parties--including Communists, Socialists, and Christian Democrats--vied for power. How does this political landscape become apparent in The Almond Picker? Why do some of the local Communists perceive Mennulara as a traitor to the working class rather than a heroine? What other cultural details accompany the author's choice of 1963 for a dateline? How might Mennulara's story have changed had it been given a contemporary setting?

5. Discuss the setting of The Almond Picker. What elements of Sicily are key to the way the novel unfolds? What is significant about an agrarian setting, as opposed to an urban one? Did Mennulara's nickname accurately capture her station during her adult life?

6. How do the people of Roccacolomba draw their many social distinctions, such as those between rich and poor, aristocrats and wealthy bourgeoisie, tradespeople and rural workers, men and women, educated and uneducated? What spurred Mennulara to rise above her initial station?

7. Which of the novel's lovers has the most fulfilling relationship? Is Orazio's treatment of Mennulara on a par with Massimo's treatment of Carmela? Why do Mennulara and Carmela tolerate such unequal affections from men?

8. Would you characterize signora Alfallipe's life as a tragic one? What common ground did she and Mennulara share? Where might Mennulara's personality have led her if she had been born to wealthier parents?

9. Who are the town's true power brokers? Who are its most dependent debtors? Who are the genuine masters of the Alfallipe estate?

10. Discuss the novel's mysteries, and the ways in which they are solved. What was your reaction to the use of coded messages in Mennulara's obituary to ensure the loyalty of her heirs? Why might the author have chosen antiquities as a means for conveying the inheritance? In your opinion, who are the novel's criminals? Who are its cleverest detectives?

11. How do the novel's primary characters view religion and religious rituals? How is Father Arena viewed? What is his understanding of faithfulness among his parish members?

12. Near the novel's end, additional clues are revealed about Mennulara through her nephews, Orazio's letter, and the memories of don Vincenzo Ancona. In the end, how would you personally answer the question "Who was Maria Rosalia Inzerillo?"

13. What is the effect of the novel's form itself, with features such as fifty brief chapters bearing understated titles? What keeps the vignettes cohesive? Having read to the end of the thirty days, what is your new understanding of chapter one?

14. Discuss the pivotal roles played by the novel's seemingly minor characters, such as Pietro Fatta, Dr. Mendicò, and many servants. What is the effect of such an elaborate and precisely drawn cast of characters?

15. What does The Almond Picker reveal about the nature of legacy? How might your biography unfold if it were narrated by both the major and the minor characters in your life?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 17, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Thought it would be better.

    I didn't like this book at all. It interested me being italian and having the story set in Sicily. I found it very boring. The book got good the last couple chapters, but the rest was terrible.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 10, 2009

    Good read...awkward translation

    I bought this book on the recommendation from Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP e-mail. Although the story itself is good (richly layered & interesting--both the characters and the tale), the translation just seemed strange and awkward...sometimes the words just didn't flow. And with the author being fluent in English, I mean, come one she lives in Great Britain, I have to wonder why she didn't translate it herself to ensure her story's fluidity. Overall, a good read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Things aren't always what they appear to be ...

    Who was Mennulara, The Almond Picker? That is the question to be answered in Ms. Hornby's debut novel. At a very young age, she became the maid for a wealthy local family and eventually became the indispensable administrator of their affairs. Was she just a servant? Rumors and speculation abound as the story unfolds. Everyone has their own opinion as to the type of person she was and what she did in life to get to where she was.
    -----
    This novel starts with the death of Mennulara and an unusual request to the family that she served. Desperate to acquire her so-called wealth, they take on a series of tasks that will ensure them their due.
    Both the characters and the story were wonderful. I was delighted by Mennulara and wanted to know the truth behind her life. I recommend to those who would like to experience the feeling of living in a small Sicilian town, those who like mystery and those who just want something pleasurable to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2005

    This book is a good read

    I truly could not put the book down. The book kept me in suspence regarding Mennu. Each time I thought I had the answer about her past, something else came up and changed my mind. The book also brings gossip to a front. Anyone reading this book can think of real life people that would participate in the very same kind of gossip. In my own opinion, the book definately deserves the 4 stars I rated.

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