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1001 Book Review: House by the Medlar Tree

house by the medlar tree_book cover

The House by the Medlar Tree (I Malagovia) Giovanni Verga
First Published in: 1881
Original language: Italian
Find it/buy it here: The House By the Medlar Tree (Classic Reprint)

Synopsis (from Amazon)
Realist (verismo) novel of Sicilian life by Giovanni Verga, published in 1881 as I Malavoglia. The book concerns the dangers of economic and social upheaval. It was the first volume of a projected five-novel series that Verga never completed. The author’s objective narrative and extensive use of dialogue to advance the action and reveal character represented a new style in Italian fiction. The action centers on the Malavoglia family, who borrow money from the local usurer against unreceived goods they expect to resell. When the shipment is lost at sea, the family must nonetheless repay the debt. A series of setbacks and losses follow, as the family encounters trouble from every quarter. The house is lost and heroic sacrifices are required of both the men and women until the debt is repaid. At the novel’s end the family retakes possession of the house by the medlar tree.

Book Worm’s Review
Rating: ★★★

This is the story of a Sicilian fishing village and the people who make their lives. The story largely focuses on the Malavoglia family, the family who owns the house by the Medlar tree.

We follow 3 generations as they adapt to the changing fortunes bought about by reliance on the sea and the goodwill of neighbours.

This was an enjoyable family saga but for me it was nothing much to write home about

medlar tree

A Medlar Tree

Jen’s Review: 
Rating: ★★★.5

Verga’s I Malagovia is a wonderful short novel for those readers who want to feel themselves immersed in Southern Italy. The story takes place in a small fishing village in Trezza, Sicily. It follows the decline and struggle of the Malgovia family.

I enjoyed this book more than did Book Worm. For me, what made the book special wasn’t the plot (which was fairly simple), but rather the rich description of the setting that is achieved primarily through dialogue. Although the plot centers around one family, it is really the story of the village that struggles economically and socially to adapt to the changing times. Verga’s lyrical realist style of writing makes you feel as if you’re walking through the cobblestone streets in this village.

I didn’t find the main plot line to be particularly novel or compelling, and I never truly connected with any of the main characters, although I did have empathy for the family as a whole. The story is a family saga that is far from unique but the writing style is unique. Verga never describes the characters, he uses dialogue as a primary strategy, thus allowing the reader to draw their own pictures of the villagers and their surroundings.

I’ve visited Italy several times, but have never had the opportunity to travel to Sicily. I especially appreciated the portions of the book that made me feel like I was in the village observing all the people in their daily lives. I love books that make me want to travel somewhere new and this book definitely made me want to pack my suitcase. Check out some images of Aci Trezza, the setting of this book:

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