Fausta Cialente: Ballata Levantina (The Levantines)

The latest addition to my website is Fausta Cialente‘s Ballata Levantina (The Levantines). This novel tells the story of well-to-do European expatriates (primarily but certainly not exclusively Italian) living in Egypt (primarily Alexandria) from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Our heroine is Daniela. Her grandmother, Francesca, had been a successful dancer and been the mistress of a rich man of Greek origin, Mikail, who had pampered her but did not marry her. They had one child, who was killed in an accident with her husband so their daughter, Daniela, is brought up by her grandmother. She is close to Matteo, son of Mikail and his previous mistress, and Matteo’s wife Livia. We follow Daniela’s childhood and early life, which, like virtually all the other characters in this book, is messy, complicated and usually not happy. Her grandmother dies, leaving debts. She has three affairs, none of which goes well. Meanwhile World War II approaches and the expats take sides as regards Franco and Mussolini and this has a clear effect on the Italian expats but still they carry on their messy affairs and lives. It is a fascinating account of a culture most readers will know little about but not a cheerful book.

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