Read Around the World: Italy
How obtained: second hand book sale ($1)
Prior to reading this book I had no idea who Fulco was, but I figured that anyone who is identified by a single name must be famous for something. The blurb identified him as the Duke of Verdura, born in the 1890’s in Palermo. It told me that this book, Happy Summer Days, “describes his idyllic childhood… and paints an enchanting portrait of a bygone era…” I thought this sounded fun- to catch a glimpse into both another culture and another time.
By the end of the book I still didn’t know what Fulco became famous for, because it ends, rather abruptly, in late childhood. This book really is just about the early years. I looked him up on google later- turns out he is a famous jewellery designer who worked with Coco Chanel and the likes.
It is a fairly short read, at 160 pages, and the chapters are divided to loosely focus on different areas- what the gardens where like, the animals, the main palace, the other houses, schooling, holidays and so on. The past is remembered fondly, with anecdotes of interesting people and happenings, and the physical world he lived in described in detail.
The writing style is pleasant- descriptive, intelligent and humorous. I leant quite a few new words, which we don’t seem to use very often but are excellent in getting a point across. You can tell by his writing that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and is able to reflect upon his own personality. He was a rather mischievous young boy, prone to hiding up trees when the teacher came around for his lessons. He would tease and play pranks, some of which he now reflects were probably too mean-and he wonders at the goodnature of his poor cousins and friends.
There is one turn of phrase I love, which I think captures his sense of self depreciating humor- when he is taking us on an imaginary tour through the house, amidst the usual descriptions:
My young cousins, who own the villa now, show this landmark of dubious merit to totally disinterested visitors as ‘the room where Fulco was born’.
The book ends with the death of his grandmother- signalling the end of his childhood. This was both the first major death that was significant to him, and the start of financial issues meaning they had to leave his beloved childhood home, and decide how to make his way in life.