The start of this novel is written in present tense, with a
death in London of an elderly woman. Then we sweep back to
Sardinia at the end of WW2 to follow the family fortunes.
UNDER A SARDINIAN SKY is full of colour, movement, women,
and food. Sardinia is an Italian island in the Mediterranean
with steep cliffs and blue seas; the American soldiers have
arrived and a festival is being held. Carmela is told that
tomboys make spinsters, and ordered to dance.
The family farm is worked by hand still, stony soil dug with
pick and shovel, subsistence planted with grapevines,
tomatoes, plums, almonds, and cherries. Much of the food is
preserved to feed the family through winter, the rest sold
to buy staples. Women do the washing by hand. Carmela works
as the seamstress for a dressmaker, who takes orders from
London ladies with winter homes on the island. The girl is
engaged to marry a local lad, Franco.
Fennel and orange salad, fresh gnocchi, sheep's cheese in a
thin sheet of pastry, flavoured with olive oil, salt,
rosemary and grated pecorino. Washed down with local wines
and followed by soft peaches. Mmm, it's enough to make you
book a trip to Sardinia. But rich food, especially meat, is
for the wealthy, not the locals. After a medical emergency,
Carmela starts to think better of the Americans, and a
Lieutenant Kavanagh asks her to be his interpreter.
Contrasts abound as the merry, well-fed foreigners show the
farm girl different lifestyles. She has to work hard on
little food while catering parties and sewing fine clothes.
Births and deaths follow, the Martedi Grasso festival, the
regular pulse of life. As time passes the romances involving
Carmela deepen, and the reader doesn't know what will happen
or how. This is a great read for anyone who wants to be
drawn into the lifestyle and absorb the culture, which
simultaneously prompts young women to be attractive to men,
and scorns women who spend any time unchaperoned in male
company. The early 1950s were clearly a time of major
change, with opportunities and mobility opening up to people
around the world. Sara Alexander has written memories from
her own family into UNDER A SARDINIAN SKY for the rest of us
Set against the beautiful backdrop of post-World War II
Sardinia, Sara Alexander’s evocative novel is a sweeping
story of star-crossed romance between an American lieutenant
and a local girl.
Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most
important secrets. For Mina, a London-based travel writer,
the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has
become a personal obsession. Carmela disappeared from her
Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments
and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her
family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother
battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.
In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by
fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s
daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son
of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good
match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s
possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe
Kavanagh. Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army
base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his
interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings,
knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and
heartache to both families.
As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her
fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the
present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and