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The story of an aristocratic family in Sicily, whose fortunes are fading rapidly, is considered one of the best historical novels ever written. Sicilian society, Don Fabrizio and his family are all so vividly portrayed, as is their crumbling home and lifestyle. And it resulted in a superb movie version!
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was the last in a line of minor Sicilian princes, and when his palazzo was damaged and pillaged during the Allied Invasion of Sicily in WWII, he turned to writing historical fiction as a way of somehow imaginatively restoring the fortunes of his family. The Leopard is set in the time of the Risorgimento, and Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, is based on Lampedusa’s own great-grandfather.
In the novel we see the Prince having to choose between the age-old traditions of his class, and breaking those traditions in order to ensure his family’s survival. It’s a story of decay, mortality, loss of power and money, and the impact of political systems. There’s the inevitability of the family’s decline and yet, as readers, we watch it happen with sorrow.
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