When Tess Angel receives a solicitor’s letter inviting her to claim her inheritance – the dilapidated but beautiful Villa Sirena, perched on a clifftop in Sicily - she is stunned. Her only link to the island is through her mother, Flavia, who left Sicily following World War II and cut all contact with her family. Could this be Tess’s chance to find out why?
Initially resistant to Tess going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. She compiles a book of her family’s traditional Sicilian recipes as a legacy to pass on to her daughter and tells her story which began in the summer of 1944 when she rescued an injured English pilot in the countryside near her home in Cetaria and helped nurse him back to health.
Meanwhile, Tess’s teenage daughter Ginny has lost her sense of direction. She is stressed by college and by her blossoming sexuality and consumed by questions that she longs to ask her father - if only she knew where he was.
Tess, a qualified diver, discovers the beauty of the underwater marine conservation area of Cetaria and falls in love with her inheritance. But there is a mystery attached to The Mermaid’s Villa concerning the missing Il Tesoro. What is this treasure and what does it have to do with her family? Tonino Amato and Giovanni Sciarra both seem to want to help her find out. She is drawn to Tonino, who creates dazzling mosaics from sea glass in the ancient baglio and tells her of the myths and legends of Sicily. But Giovanni warns her against him. Why are they sworn enemies and who can she trust? Tess must navigate a way through the prejudices of Sicilian history and the opposition of her family’s enemies in order to find out.
Kathryn - 4 Star
Rosanna Ley created a complex story line and set of characters within the confines of a seemingly simple village in Sicily. I was actually worried I was never going to truly understand the entire story as so much of it was given to us in tiny pieces!
I was interested in Tess’ situation- to be handed a villa in a will from someone you’d never even met is my dream! However it came with a great deal of “baggage” and like her, I would probably have chosen to dive right into finding out what I could about the place immediately.
The Villa actually had a couple of voices woven together and I think the author did a good job of conveying each position. Tess’ story and evolvement was told by her exploring her mother’s village in Sicily, exposing her mother’s past and therefore uncovering her roots. Her daughter Ginny is on the cusp of adulthood and wants to deny her mother’s input in her life and yet isn’t quite ready to let her go. I found Ginny’s voice hard to read as I felt so badly for her confusion. It’s the first novel I’ve read that really made me think of my own daughter growing up- somehow this one finally made me the parent and not still the child? I hope I’ll remember Ginny’s thoughts when my daughter and I reach that point in our relationship- it was very well done. Finally there is the voice of Flavia (Tess’ mother) who mostly recounts her past in the form of recipes she wants to pass on to her daughter and a journal of her memories of the past. Each section was conveyed so differently that at first I didn’t notice that the three generations of women were telling their stories to converge into one spot.
There are many details in The Villa and I wouldn’t want to give away the intricate plot- suffice it to say though that I enjoyed the book greatly.
Thank you to Rock Star Lit for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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