The Olive Branch – Puglia – Jo Thomas

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Why a booktrail?

A tasty treat to be devoured with a spoonful of olive oil in a crumbly old farmhouse in Puglia. Careful what you buy on ebay…and watch out for goats…..

Story in an olive

It’s something most of us have done at some point – sat in front of a computer fuelled by alcohol. What most of us haven’t done however is to then go on Ebay and buy an Italian farmhouse.

Well Ruthie Collins does just that and before long she is thrown head first into a way of life, a raging family feud and the art of olive oil growing. Ruthie of course knows nothing of what to expect and even less about olive oil. Marco Bellanuovo, the rather handsome neighbour does however. The farmhouse has been in his family for years and Marco is at the heart of the feud and his mother’s apron strings. Marco and his family are suspicious of Ruthie’s motives and Marco is particularly keen to test her being there.

Ruthie is not about to crawl back to England. No she is there to fight for her dream.

Place and setting

ITALY-SMALL

Alberobello MArco works here Trullo Antichi Sapori Address: Via Monte San Michele, 37, 70011 Alberobello,Italy Gorgeous shop selling all kinds of italian foods and in a trullo style building - a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Puglia Where the novel is set The real olive oil experience - http://www.lacropolidipuglia.it/#_=_ L'Acropoli di Puglia Trento, 180 | ang. via Votano 5, 74015 Martina Franca, Italy Ostuni  where the expats are said to live Torre Canne, Province of Brindisi, Italy Where she and Ed travel to
Alberobello
Marco works here
Trullo Antichi Sapori
Address: Via Monte San Michele, 37, 70011 Alberobello,Italy
Gorgeous shop selling all kinds of italian foods and in a trullo style building – a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof.
Puglia
Where the novel is set
The real olive oil experience – http://www.lacropolidipuglia.it/#_=_
L’Acropoli di Puglia
Trento, 180 | ang. via Votano 5, 74015 Martina Franca, Italy
Ostuni
where the expats are said to live
Torre Canne, Province of Brindisi, Italy
Where she and Ed travel to

Well of course Puglia just jumps from the page. And that’s just the high kicking goat called Daphne..

The author evokes vivid images of an idyllic Italian community – a village with a street market where the lemons on the trees are like  ‘big gold cricket balls’ dripping from the branches.

And then there’s the countryside – the hills, the rugged landscape and the animals (goats and chickens abound), the crumbling farmhouse, ramshackle buildings…

Right at the heart of the novel is the Bellanouvo family – with Marco  beaten down by his Italian Mama ( who is as flamboyant and a dab hand in the kitchen as you would wish)

But it’s the smell and story of olives that will have you licking your lips..

Let the oil sit on your tongue and you will find the flavours work like a balloon, first at the tip of your tongue and then expanding to touch the sides.

It’s a good every day oil. You should get the taste of tomatoes, apple and then pepper

Ruthie’s Italian skills don’t help her to explore this new world since the dialect and way of talking here is not what she learnt! What she does learn however is the Italian way of life, olive farming and the art of olive oil tasting. She makes rather too much piccalilli and uses this as a peace offering in the village – much to their amusement.

The joys of living the dream coupled with the harsh reality. The farmhouse in question is fraught with problems but the jovial, heartwarming and utterly chaotic Italian family community more than make up for it.

Bookish musings

A joy for all the senses.

Like being at the heart of the Mama Dolmio Advert with the larger than life characters, italian greetings sprinkled all over like the herbs on a good lasagne, this is life in Italy evoked for your taste buds.

I knew nothing of olive oil and farming and this was fascinating in the extreme! The hard work involved in working on a farm, orchard and mending the ornate Trullo roofs – such craftsmanship!

This world the author has created is a fascinating one which warms your heart and puts you at the heart  of the Italian family bosom. You can hear them shouting and waving their arms even off the page which makes for one very funny read.

Oh and be careful of goats…they tend to have characters of their own and pop up everywhere at the most awkward of times!

A olive oil fused gem of a book with a duck poo aperitif…

Puglia – The Night Falling – Katherine Webb

th enight falling

Why a booktrail?

The opulence of Puglia contrasted with the horrific poverty of the war veterans and settings that will take your breath away. Based on true historical detail.

Story in a nutshell

Puglia, 1921.

Leandro Cardetta, once poor has now returned to southern Italy after having made his fortune in America. he now is rich enough to hire renowned English architect, Boyd Kingsley, to renovate a crumbling palazzo into an Art Deco palace. Once its done he wants to invite his teenage son and his second wife , clare, for a summer.

But 1921 is a difficult time for despite the wealth of this man, there is much tension in the region. Veterans of the Great War are starving and unemployed. Leandro’s nephew Ettore wants revenge for the death of his fiancee and one day comes to Leandro for help. Meeting Clare will change everything

The summer of 1921 will change a great deal for the family and reveal the secrets of how each one really came to be there.

Place and setting

Puglia Bari - “Bari’s city streets seem alien after so many weeks in Gioia” according to Clare Gioia del colle - where Ettre works on a farm the Masseria Vallarta the biggest farm near Gioia Piazza Plebiscito  - where Clare sees a man being beaten by a fascist squad
Puglia
Bari – “Bari’s city streets seem alien after so many weeks in Gioia” according to Clare
Gioia del colle – where Ettre works on a farm the Masseria Vallarta the biggest farm near Gioia
Piazza Plebiscito – where Clare sees a man being beaten by a fascist squad

The Italian sun sits high in the sky burning down on  everyone and everything below. Slowly and surely the heat burns and raises the temperature of the landscape and the people going about their business. A family is meeting in luxury in Puglia – they have come from far and wide to be here yet their reasons for doing so are quite different.

Bari’s Streets seem alien after so many weeks in Gioia at at the masseria ; they are too big, too wide, too long.

This could well be the last day she ever spends in Puglia and if the choice is hers it will be.

An italian who has made his fortune in New York returns to Puglia where luxury sits with poverty. Leandro although rich is still not accepted by those he would like to be. With a glamorous American wife, he’s determined to make his mark. But how did he get so wealthy – and just what secrets does his wife hide?

Against the backdrop of war and poverty, the men who toil and sweat for hours doing back braking work only to support their families contrast with the shine and opulent luxury of Leandro’s home seen shallow and unstable –

Hunger is like a stone in your shoe. At first you think it’s an irritation, but it doesn’t really hinder you. But then it makes you limp and makes it hard to walk. The pain grows

The class divides here are revealed by Ettore who lives in poverty and is taken to his uncle’s farmhouse when he is injured and where he reveals his humble background as a slave worker. Rich and poor, those in work and those without – the class divide is strong and unrest lingers in the air and demonstrations are not far away.

Katherine’s portrayal of the poverty and the contrast between the rich and poor was very skillfully done for it included all shades of black, white and grey of the issue and showed the tension and feeling of the people on both sides. The truth and the secret which spill out are horrifying.

Class and politics ruled the roost in the post Great War Era. This is a  good way to experience life in Puglia at a very significant and dangerous time.

For information on the area and to see the town of  Alberobello which first inspired Katherine to write this story, then please visit the link below. Alberobello is a UNESCO world heritage site.

http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/alberobello-and-its-trulli.html 

Bookish musings

Katherine Webb is a writer I like more with each book she writes. For the places and people she writes about come alive off the page and you feel their pain and experience their lives with her. The settings are always very strong and evocative and this one, Puglia, is no exception. Perhaps it is even stronger since it is the setting of so many different stories and experiences coming together.

I knew nothing of the situation in Puglia and the situation of latifundism or land ownership and the workings of the large masserias. This was a major time in the south of Italy and the years leading up to Mussolini coming to power, the workers of the south had fought and struggled for their own sense of order. This was a volatile region at that time and so via the eyes of an outsider (Clare) , we can see this in all its shattering and horrifying ‘glory’.

The overlying theme is the haves and the have nots, the poverty of some and the wealth of the few, the harshness of the reality of war and the everlasting consequences.

And throughout this a love story, and not just with the lyrical descriptions of Puglia. Katherine Webb has been inspired by real and actual events and the attention to detail is outstanding.

A must read!