From the Cover:
The year is 1943. The Nazis have invaded Italy; American troops have landed. At Aldo's restaurant on the Adriatic coast, Lucia Fantini, wife of the late Aldo, has entertained customers for years with her marvelous opera singing, but normal operations have ceased; the restaurant has been seized by nazifascisti, and a Resistance squad of waiters and local tradesmen have been formed, led by Lucia's son, Beppino. When he disappears after acting on his own to destroy a German truck, Lucia asks, "What kind of a partisan are you, blowing something up without telling your mother?" and sets off to look for him.
Lucia is aided in her efforts by a richly drawn cast of characters, including Annmarie Malone, the U.S. Army Intelligence officer who was a professional golfer back home; Tito Rocuzzi, the butcher who taught neighborhood dogs to pee on Fascists' boots; Etto Renzetti, the factory owner who scoffs at Dante; and Ugo Fantini, Aldo's physician cousin, who has reasons of his own for wanting to be near Lucia.
Lucia's journey across war-devastated Italy is operatic in scope and intensity. Ellen Cooney has drawn on her heritage as a third-generation Italian American to invoke not only a country in crisis but also its literature, its moods, and most of all, its music. This is a tale of lyrical grace and an effervescent comic spirit to match the wine that nourishes them all- Lambrusco.
I had not heard of this book prior to purchasing it. The lovely cover art is what first intrigued me. I love to read a book that draws me into a different culture. Lambrusco by Ellen Cooney is an immersion into WWII Italy. The days are bleak as the lead character and narrator, Lucia Fantini, takes the reader on a heart-wrenching tour of the country as she unsuccessfully tries to locate her missing son and find her voice along the way.
Along the way, we discover the cost innocent civilians pay as their cities and country become occupied by the enemy, and the tragedies which occur not only to Italians but to the land itself. Although the setting is dark, it is a story about rebuilding- a widow learning how to create a new life for herself and a country determined to survive and keep its heritage alive.
Often written in a stream of consciousness narration, the reader experiences each scene through Lucia's thoughts and recollections, even encountering her hallucinations after a head injury. Through the numerous characters, one sees how war leaves no life untouched. We travel along with them in a story set to musical composition. Underlying each memory and event is opera, the music of Italian legends.
A beloved opera singer herself, Lucia discovers that her quest is not only to find her son, but to find herself- the courage to own her voice and use it to proclaim the love that she has remained silent about for far too long.