Caterina Edwards’ novel The Sicilian Wife (Linda Leith Publishers, Westmount, Canada, 2015) is a clever interpretation of the Mafia noir genre, a great page turner which manages to evoke a refreshingly authentic portrait of contemporary Sicily.
Edwards, a skillful storyteller delicately weaves together the stories and lives of two forthright Italian women, Fulvia the daughter of a Mafia boss and Marisa, chief of the Alcamo police. Through their complex destinies, both women are trapped by a male dominate, chauvinistic society, resisting the Mafia in one form or the other to find their place in the world, which gives the book a significant feminist undertone.
The evocative sphere of The Sicilian Wife traces the flight of Flavia away from her Mafia family whom, she has always struggled with, taking her through the contrasting worlds of Sicily to Canada, until the mysterious death of her husband, in Sicily draws her back into the sphere of her past.
While Marisa De Luca investigates a baffling car crash, becoming obsessed with identifying the charred remains of the victims, as she contemplates her own floundering career from promising undercover anti Mafia investigator to her degrading transfer into a small town police station where she struggles to maintain her authority.
This powerfully dark novel takes elements from recent Italian history, folktales and classical traditions to create a beautiful narrative which is a pleasure to read.
The Sicilian wife is never free from her own past and is haunted by her family’s values and struggles with her own desires as the forges her own life in Canada but she is never far away from her family tree. The reader too is easily drawn into the fascinating landscape of Sicily whose narrative is made up of many hypnotizing voices, which tell us intriguing stories from the past, ancient desires, violence, love and passions. These women cannot ever truly escape the danger of their lives as they are both undeniably linked to enigmatic Sicily.
Caterina Edward’s has masterfully used the ancient land of Sicily as a superb inspiration for her own vision in the Sicilian Wife, building on the foundations of a genre, which has become a little tired over the past few years, to breathe new life with vibrant and real female characters who seem more powerful and evocative and yes even more memorable than the male dominated world they live in.
Rochelle Del Borrello