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Excerpt from Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions

by Mario Giordano

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano X
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2019, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley
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Print Excerpt

Chapter One

Describes how and why Poldi moves to Sicily and what her sisters-in-law think of it. Unable to function without her wig and a bottle of brandy, Poldi invites everyone to a roast pork lunch, makes her nephew an offer he can't refuse, and gets to know her neighbours in the Via Baronessa. One of them goes missing soon afterwards.

On her sixtieth birthday my Auntie Poldi moved to Sicily, intending to drink herself comfortably to death with a sea view. That, at least, was what we were all afraid of, but something always got in the way. Sicily is complicated?—you can't simply die there; something always gets in the way. Then events speeded up, and someone was murdered, and nobody admitted to having seen or known a thing. It goes without saying that my Auntie Poldi, being the pig-headed Bavarian she was, had to take matters in hand herself and sort them out. And that was when problems arose. 

My Auntie Poldi: a glamorous figure, always ready to make a dramatic entrance. She had put on a bit of weight in recent years, admittedly, and booze and depression had ploughed a few furrows in her outward appearance, but she was still an attractive woman and mentally tip-top?—most of the time, at least. Stylish, anyway. When Madonna's Music came out, Poldi was the first woman in Westermühlstrasse to wear a white Stetson. One of my earliest childhood memories is of her and Uncle Peppe sitting on my parents' patio in Neufahrn, Poldi in a bright orange trouser suit, beer in one hand, cigarette in the other, and everyone joining in the laughter she seemed to generate with her entire body, which erupted from her in inexhaustible gusts of mirth?—interspersed with the smutty jokes and expletives that made me the star attraction of the school playground when I passed them on the next day. 

Isolde and Giuseppe had met at a Munich television studio, where Poldi worked as a costume designer and Peppe was a tailor, an occupation which, for want of any other talent or aspiration, he had inherited from his tyrannical and hypochondriacal father, in other words my grandfather, who had likewise lacked any talents or aspirations?—quite unlike his father, my great-grandfather Barnaba, that is, who, without being able to speak a word of German, had emigrated in the 1920s to Munich, where he set up a lucrative wholesale fruit business and became a wealthy man. But I digress. 

Poldi and my Uncle Peppe had shared a grand passion, but alas, a few things went badly wrong. Two miscarriages, booze, my uncle's womanizing, divorce from my uncle, my uncle's illness, my uncle's death, the whole issue of the plot of land in Tanzania and sundry other unpleasant twists and turns, setbacks and upheavals of life had stricken my aunt with depression. But she continued to laugh, love and drink a lot, and she didn't simply take things lying down when they went against the grain. Which they always did. 

Poldi had enjoyed being a costume designer, but in recent years she had more and more often lost jobs to younger colleagues. Television work had become scarcer, times harder, and Poldi had gradually fallen out of love with her profession. Stupidly enough, the disastrous venture in Tanzania had robbed her of almost all her savings. But then her parents died in quick succession and left her their little house on the outskirts of Augsburg. And because my Auntie Poldi had always hated the house and everything to do with it, nothing could have been more logical than to sell it and take herself off, together with the rest of her savings and her small pension, and fulfil one of her dearest wishes: to die with a sea view. And family for company. 

The family in Sicily naturally suspected that Poldi meant to hasten her demise with a glass or two, given her depressive tendencies, and felt that this must be combated on every level and by all available means. When I say "family" I'm referring principally to my three aunts, Teresa, Caterina and Luisa, and my Uncle Martino, Teresa's husband. Aunt Teresa, who calls the shots in our family, tried to persuade Poldi to move in with them at Catania, if only for social reasons. 

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Excerpted from Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. Copyright by Mario Giordano. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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