"An extremely engrossing read". L'Espresso
"A complex and ambitious portrait of Sicilian society... Tantalizingly measured revelation of material." Times Literary Supplement
"A portrait of strong, modern heroine." Il Mattino
Winner of the 2011 Italian Pen Prize.
This remarkable historical novel opens in Messina on 15th August 1840: in the home of Marshal Don Peppino Padellani of Opiri, festive preparations are well under way for the reception that his wife organizes every year to celebrate the Assumption of Mary: it will be the last happy day for a very long time in the life of their fourteen-year-old daughter, Agata, who is in love with the wealthy Giacomo Lepre.
As it happens, Agata must relinquish her love, because the families cannot come to a matrimonial agreement and her impoverished fatherís death leaves her little choice but to join a convent.
There, Agata finds solace in the comforting routine of monastic life and the study of herbal medicine. Her days are enriched by her reading of literature sent to her by an English Captain whom she had met before her confinement. As Agataís feelings for Giacomo abate, her newfound passion for Jane Austen, along with her fascination by the movements toward the Unification of Italy and her remote but constant friendship with Captain Garson, nurture in Agata a profound desire to forge an adult existence of her own design. Ultimately, the tension between her spiritual inclinations and the pull of the outside world becomes unbearable and Agata must gather the courage and honesty required to make the most difficult choice of her life.