Casa Nostra: A Home in Sicily

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9780061189210: Casa Nostra: A Home in Sicily

In this enchanting memoir about food, family, culture, and culture shock, an Englishwoman shares the unpredictable adventures of her Sicilian family and the renovation of their villa

At a mid-seventies Halloween party in London, Caroline Seller stumbled across a man in a lion mask. Although she spoke little Italian and he practically no English, both were undeniably smitten. After only a few more meetings, Caroline was invited to stay with Marcello's family in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, where she was introduced to the eccentric Manzo clan—including Marcello's larger-than-life mother Maria—who lived in a magnificent but crumbling villa, Santa Maria.

Soon afterward Caroline and Marcello married, set out on an expatriate life together around the world, and started their own family, but Santa Maria was never far from their thoughts. After much debate over the fate of the deteriorating villa, Marcello and his brothers united to save it. Determined in their mission—but not entirely prepared for what they were getting into!—Marcello and Caroline embarked on a restoration process full of disconcerting setbacks, demoralizing mishaps, and ultimately breathtaking results.

Through amusing anecdotes, stunning photography, and inspired observations of Sicilian culture, Casa Nostra shows not only the renovation of the villa, but also the unique beauty and history of western Sicily and its people, as seen through the eyes of Caroline Seller Manzo—an outsider who is often surprised, and always delighted, by her family and adopted hometown.

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About the Author:

Caroline Seller Manzo was born in London but was brought up in Fiji and has lived in many different countries, first with her parents, then with her husband, Marcello. She read classics at Oxford University and now works as a trainer in communication studies. She and Marcello have two daughters, and divide their time between London, Sicily, and Milan.

From Publishers Weekly:

The renovation of a massive, decaying villa in Sicily ostensibly spurred the writing of this uneven, predictable memoir from first-time author Manzo. Married into a Sicilian family struggling to maintain its hold on the family property, London-born Manzo is compelled to help rebuild it, becoming a fixture of the neglected house and its multi-generational members. Photographs reinforce the grandeur of the property, which includes crenellated towers and arched doorways, but the story of the renovation itself is thin and uneventful, populated with predictable delays and a few oddball stories of contractors and broken water pumps. As expected, the domestic project frames the story of each family member, particularly the aging matriarch, though there are long chapters on architecture and the Mafia which often serve to slow what little momentum there is. Despite this, some charming moments shine through, particularly concerning the brothers who share the villa and the food they eat together, but without any major disasters or truly comic mishaps, the book flounders; still, readers looking for a light escape will agree there's worse places to flounder than sun-drenched Sicily.
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