When Guiseppe Mundula first sees Michele Angelo Chironi across the corridor of a Sardinian orphanage, the blacksmith realizes that he has found the son and heir he never knew he needed. And when a few years later, Michele himself looks down from the ladder on which he is working and sees the beautiful Mercede, he knows that he has found the woman he will marry. So begins Fois’ magisterial domestic epic of the lives, loves, and losses of the Chironi family as they struggle through war and fascism. Deftly endowing familial horrors with mythical resonance, Fois creates a Dantesque triptych that inscribes the history of twentieth-century Sardinia, and sweeping changes across Europe, onto the historical tablet of a single misbegotten household.
Using deliberately old-fashioned prose—slow, magisterial, omniscient, sometimes myth-like—Fois brings gravity to this three-part tale of a brief sojourn in “Paradise” as the lovers meet; a decades-long span in “Hell,” as the Chironis are caught in the bloody 20th century; and a purgatory that offers the hope of a new beginning, or at least the story’s continuation. This a transportive and striking novel. —Publishers Weekly
Fois’ descriptive prose is lavish, powerfully evoking time and place. It’s as if nature is possessed of a richness of expression that humans have yet to acquire . . . Mazzarella’s translation is flawless.
His poetic style is reminiscent of classics such as Manzoni’s The Betrothed and Lampedusa’s The Leopard.
Fois combines a remarkable number of different ways of seeing the world, different forms of storytelling, different kinds of language and different narrative voices.