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Friday, 31 January 2014
Accabadora by Michela Murgia (translated by Silvester Mazzarella)
Reviewer: JJ Marsh, author of The Beatrice Stubbs series
Beautiful, magical, with a subtle evocation of island culture in a period gone by.
For a mother with too many daughters, it's a neat solution to make a bargain with a sterile woman. A better life for the girl and for the lonely woman.
So Maria is a fill'e anima - a soul child.
Bonaria is the accabadora, the opposite to a midwife. She assists souls on their way out.
Maria and Bonaria Urrai grow to understand each other and their place in the unspoken culture of Sardinia in the 1950s.
The rural landscape and way of life is traditional, charming and brutal. The story of growing awareness and a broadening perspective is not restricted to Maria. The reader learns much, absorbed by the atmosphere of this complicit, tight community, about how right and wrong are dependent on the eye of the beholder.
It's a delightful book, characterised by evocative images and subtle personalities. And Murcia's writing is enough to make you stop and catch your breath. Maria is six years old and making a mud tart full of live ants, decorated with sand and wild flowers.
"Under the fierce July sun Maria's pudding grew in her hands with the beauty that sometimes characterises evil things."
And that's on page one.
Hats off to the translator, because this book is a thing of beauty.
You’ll enjoy this is you like: JM Synge, Watership Down, Jean de Florette/Manon des Sources
Avoid if: your perception of southern Italy is directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Ideal accompaniments: Limoncello, chiacchiere (angel wings) and a classic tarantella, ideally by Schubert.
Genre: Literary fiction, historical