Constructed around the mafia trial of Giulio Andreotti in 1995, this narrative combines a history of the Cosa Nostra with travel writing, accounts of Italian life and Sicilian food. It also presents portraits of the many people involved in the trial.
Mr Robb’s book does divert, and has entertaining parts on, for instance, the history of the fork, and the origin of pasta. Mr Robb also meets interesting people, like a woman photographer turned politician, fiercely anti-Mafia. But every time, he ultimately comes back to his prime subject, the Mafia, and every time, he spells out other gruesome details – sometimes, perhaps, too much. But it doesn’t diminish the intensity of the book, and the message it puts forward, that Italy was on the brink of becoming ungovernable. Great book for anybody interested not just in Sicily, but also in the post-war history of Italy.
There are some parts that dwell on Naples where the author also spent some years. But this is done to compare and contrast the Sicilian experience to the similar one, at least to the outside observer, of Naples. Shared history, it seems, is not always shared equally.
It is a tragedy that such a beautiful land has such a savage underbelly that controls almost all aspects of life. One can only hope that the lives of the investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino blown up by the Mafia, as well as the many others wishing to be freed from this yoke, will not be in vain. But there remains the suggestion that the Mafia still has some control over government in more recent times.
The theme of the book, and by implication life in Sicily, is echoed in the last line of this edition (2007): Everything has to change so everything can stay the same.
I highly recommend this book to those wishing to understand Sicily, its rich history and modern reality.