KATHRYN OCCHIPINTI’S REVIEW OF A HIDDEN SICILIAN HISTORY


Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2022

“A Hidden Sicilian History” by Ettore Grillo is a well-written novel that flows naturally from the Sicily of the past into the present. I especially enjoyed reading the Preface, called “The Find,” which sets up the premise of the book — that a manuscript has been found in the library of Enna (a small town in central Sicily) that contains the autobiography of a young man, Vicenzino, and includes his search to understand the lives deaths of those around him, as well as his journeys to India made to understand the meaning of faith. This was so well written that I was fooled at first, and actually believed that this story was a translation of a manuscript!

Grillo’s premise serves as a spring board that allows the reader a glimpse into a way of living in a Sicily of the past, with details that could only be known by a native. The accounts in the young boy’s life are told from the vantage point of the author as an adult, of course, ostensibly during a theatrical event. I truly enjoyed reading the descriptions of life in a small town in Sicily, which really came alive through the characters and everyday events. For instance, I learned details of country life when a young Vicenzino was sent to live in the country with his adult cousin who ran a farm. This was a simple life without electricity or air conditioning but rich in its connection to the land and philosophy, with no other diversions at night than stories told under the stars. I was amazed to find that Vicenzino became healthy through early morning exercise during walks while hunting with his cousin and on a simple diet of pasta and cabbage and potatoes for lunch and eggs for dinner — with the addition of an occasional rabbit they caught.

The reader then learns about what it is like to grow up in a Sicily of the past through glimpses into the activities of Vicenzino’s relatively well-off family, and even take a journey into a sulfur mine run largely by child labor that provided the family income.

Amid these details, the driving force of the first half of the novel is Vicenzino’s desire to learn about his name sake, his cousin Vicenzo, who was deeply mourned by his mother and whose death was shrouded in secrecy. Vicenzino does eventually learn all he wants about his uncle’s life, which takes us even further back into an historical Sicily.

The mores of the times feature prominently in the life of Vicenzo as well as Vicenzino and lead us into the second half of the novel, which is a travelogue of Vicenzino’s search in India for the meaning of faith. There are few details about India, but many about those individuals of great faith that Vicenzino and his wife seek out and visit. In the midst of this, we learn of a tragic event that occurred during the course of Vicenzino’s life that. along with the deaths he experienced as a child, helped drive his many visits to Italy as an adult and further his need to understand if there is an afterlife.

It is true that the theme of faith and the search for the afterlife was introduced in the preface, and descriptions of the Catholic faith permeate the life of Vicenzino and Vicenzo; therefore, I should not have been surprised that much of the second part of the book included Vicenzino’s search for a solution to his life questions through faith. But I did not enjoy the second part of the book that was set largely in India as much as the first half set in Sicily, since my interests do not extend to India and the different practices of faith in India. However, I would recommend this section for those who are interested in a discussion of how different peoples view faith and search for meaning in life.

Over all, I found this book an interesting and worthwhile read and would recommend it to those interested in a vivid account of a Sicily of the past.

I was given this book by the author for an honest review

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

CHRISTMAS IN ENNA (SICILY)

The heart of the city of Enna is the Piazza San Francesco. It was built to serve people; to be a meeting place.

In the sixties, it was turned into a large parking lot, but in the eighties, it was given back to the citizens, and is now lit up for the Christmas holidays.

Here and there in Enna, you can come across a nativity scene. I recently visited one made by the boys and girls of the Catholic Action of Enna. They are very smart. Inside a small three-story building, they have created workshops for various cultural activities: to learn music, to learn painting, to do theater, to teach Italian to foreigners, and so on.

While I am talking about the crib, my thoughts go to Saint Francis of Assisi. He was number one in many fields. He was the first to make a nativity scene and the first to compose a poem in Italian. We can say that the Italian language was born with St. Francis of Assisi. His superb poem Canticle of the Creatures predates both Dante and the Sicilian school of poetry.

Reading Canticle of the Creatures in front of a nativity scene elevates the spirit!

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

TOTÒ, THE COOKIES OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD IN SICILY

November 2, the day of the dead in Sicily, is not an ordinary day. Indeed, it is a special day of celebration and joy. The Sicilians enjoy the feast and make special cakes for the occasion.

One of the typical cookies they make is called “totò.”

This morning, the baker made me try a lemon-flavored one. I had never eaten such a delicious cookie. He displayed chocolate, orange, and lemon flavored totò.

I asked him for the recipe for making such tasty sweets, but he was evasive and unwilling to talk about the ingredients he used. Obviously, he wanted to keep his recipe a secret.

November 2 is dedicated to the commemoration of the dead throughout the Catholic world, but only in Sicily is it considered a day of joyful celebration. This is because Sicily was a Spanish colony like Mexico and absorbed the customs of the Mexican Amerindians who used to celebrate the day of the dead.

Those populations imagined death as a continuation of life. For them, the afterlife was similar to life on earth. During the festival, they represented death as a person dressed up and enjoying the dance.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

BONES OF THE DEAD, TYPICAL SICILIAN COOKIES

November 2 is drawing near and in all bakeries in Sicily it is possible to buy the typical cookies for this day, “the bones of the dead.” They look like human bones, are hollow and hard to eat.

Today, after buying some, I asked the baker to tell me the secret to making them so hard and hollow. He said that he leavens dough for two days on a canvas to make it lose its moisture, and then he bakes them at a low temperature, about 140 degrees. During the process, they lose sugar and become hollow.

On November 2, children receive gifts from the dead. Obviously, this is a fiction, for parents actually buy the gifts and pretend that the dead brought them. This way, children are taught to respect and love the souls of those who are no longer with us.

November 2nd is a day of celebration in Sicily. The tradition of celebrating the dead dates back to the time of the Aztecs. On the other hand, being Sicily a Spanish possession like Mexico, it absorbed Spanish customs and traditions deriving from contacts with the Amerindians.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

LINDA’S REVIEW OF A HIDDEN SICILIAN HISTORY


A good book, like a good wine must offer some degree of complexity. A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo does just that. It is not at all what I expected. It is certainly not a history of the island.
We begin with the story of an old scroll found nestled in a volume of the Inquisition in a library in Enna, Sicily. The finder expects, as I did, that this will be a history of the island, possibly during the time of the Inquisition. As he translates it he finds the scroll instead to be a single fictional memoir of loss, doubt, and longing for truth.
The scroll becomes the vehicle for philosophical pondering about the meaning of life and what may lie beyond. The author of the scroll is an actor, Vincenzo. Through his musings the daily life in the 1930’s and historical events of the town of Enna become alive for the reader. Even small details regarding cures, strict customs and, of course, religious activities are included. Vincenzo becomes quite obsessed with the story of his uncle, also named Vincenzo, and feels a special bond with him, his namesake. He is determined to find information about his uncle’s mysterious death, a death no living relative would discuss. The fact that Vincenzo is introduced as an actor in a church play perhaps has bearing on his insecure identity and his personal spiritual challenges. Additionally, the fact that the scroll was found embedded in pages referring to the Inquisition dramatizes the book’s theme involving the impact of religion in our lives and our attitudes about our after-lives.
As we travel with Vincenzo in his quest for information about the demise of his uncle, we enter many pages of rather graphic sexual situations. This did take me by surprise but is appropriate considering the ultimate revelation of the cause of death. In his quest for universal truth the author touches on several world religions other than Christianity. This combination of real-life grit and philosophical wanderings into faith results in an interesting and unique and multi-layered read. The author is clearly highly educated and has a way with words that is both succinct and descriptive.

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

A HISTORICAL NOVEL ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE

A Hidden Sicilian History is a historical novel based on an old manuscript which was found in the city library of Enna, Sicily.

In the second edition, I have improved the style and added a few details about Sicilian culture and Marian Sanctuaries.

The Sicilian proverbs and prayers are written not only in English but also in the Sicilian language.

The background of the book is Sicily and other countries: India, France, Portugal, Belgium, Russia, Australia, and Mexico.

Vincenzino, the main character in the novel, travels across the world to find an answer to the eternal human question: is there life after death? In the end, he will find a way out of his dilemma.

A Hidden Sicilian History will give the reader useful information about traditional processions, prayers to remove roundworms and hexes, life in the sulfur mines and in the public whorehouse, and so on.

I am sure you will enjoy this book.

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

Historical Novel Travels Back to Sicily Through the Ages

Life and death pose a timeless mystery in the powerful fictional work A Hidden Sicilian History: Second Edition.

“Countless people over the years have wished to know their destiny and future. For that reason, there have been astrologers, magicians, wizards, and oracles to consult.” There have also been written histories to contemplate.

At the public library in Enna, Sicily, a young man notices an ancient scroll drift from a shelf to the floor. It appears to have slipped from between two volumes about the Spanish Inquisition.

Although he expects the scroll to be related to life in Sicily at the time of Spanish rule, instead it tells of a drama performed long ago at the deconsecrated Church of Santa Croce in Enna. It also hints of many other things.

The young man translates the lost manuscript into English and publishes it. Throughout its pages flow descriptions of traditional feasts, tips on how to remove hexes, and describes life in Enna’s public whorehouse. But one theme is common throughout: the yearning to understand the meaning of life.

When the Second World War was over, most women in Enna didn’t work outside the home … You saw ladies dressed in black in the streets … If a child had been lost, the woman dressed in black for five years. If a sibling had passed away, his or her sister dressed in black for three years. If the dead person was the husband, the widow dressed in black the rest of her life … As for men, the duration of mourning was much shorter than that of women. They usually wore black suits for a few days.

“This spellbinding story ponders the question: Is there life after death? The scroll found in the book spans many years of Sicilian history and cultural traditions, but the book is also a murder mystery,” said Lynn Eddy, VP of Acquisitions, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Company.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo