Monday, August 27, 2012
Author: Lina Simoni
Genre: Historical fiction, multicultural fiction
Publisher: Moonleaf Publishing, 2004
Read for: Review
The Berilli family of Genoa, Italy are wealthy and respected, seeming on the surface to live happy lives. However, beneath the surface is the mystery behind the death of only daughter Caterina, good-for-nothing son Raimondo, lonely, cast-off aunt Eugenia, and the patriarch himself, who has retreated into his reading room for two days with no explanation. Soon a series of threats has the entire family in fear -- and wondering what the truth is.
I requested this book from NetGalley because my husband used to live in Northern Italy and I thought it would be fun to read a book about the region. While at times The House of Serenades was a bit dramatic and overwrought, it definitely had a strong Italian flavor and was a fun and enlightening read.
The House of Serenades is pure soap opera drama in print. Every character had a secret, and every character had done something scandalous. From forbidden love to hidden convents in the mountains to black cats hung on doorways with the word "death" scrawled above them in blood and illegal child trafficking, House of Serenades was certainly not short of twists and turns. For the most part, while the plot was over-the-top, I enjoyed the constant drama. However, toward the end of the book there was a segment of time where everyone was immersed in misery and punishment, and I became a little fed up with reading this book about people doing horrible things to each other with no redemption in sight. The book felt somewhat fluffy at first but towards the end became completely weighted down with woe.
Because the plot was so replete with action, the characters were somewhat flat. Their motivations are generally one-dimensional and motivated by money or lust. With the exception of Caterina and Ivano, none of the characters changed their ways or learned from their mistakes. Instead, the focus of the story was just the crazy things that happened to the characters. For me personally, a book with only minimal character development is somewhat unsatisfying.
I think my favorite aspect of the book was the Italian personality and learning more about the culture. It is a historical novel, so of course certain aspects, such as the extreme difference in class, are not as relevant today. However, the dramatic, gossipy relationships are, my husband informs me, still typical of Italian culture. In addition, it was fun to tell my husband the names of the characters as well as certain words that were presented in this book. I really enjoyed being immersed in an Italian story for a few hours.
House of Serenades is, for the most part, a fun read. Towards the end it does become a little weighty and tragic, but it was an interesting journey into turn of the century Italian life.
Warnings: Violence, detailed description of sexual abuse, innuendo