Linda Lo Scuro lives in London. This is her first novel.
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The Sicilian Woman's Daughter
Four generations of mafia women
Linda Lo Scuro
“If you loved My Brilliant Friend, The Godfather, and Montalbano, you’ll love this utterly gripping novel about women in organised crime in Sicily.”
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Most victims of the mafia are the Sicilians themselves. The role of women both as perpetrators and victims has been grossly overlooked. Until now.
As the daughter of Sicilian immigrants, in her teens Maria turns her back on her origins and fully embraces the English way of life. Notwithstanding her troubled and humble childhood in London, and backed up by her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, she triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society. There she becomes a bastion of civility.
But a minor incident wakes up feelings of revenge in her like those lurking in Maria’s Sicilian origins. As she delves deeper into her mother’s family history a murky past unravels, drawing Maria more and more into a mire of vendetta.
“Ms. Lo Scuro does a fantastic job filling in the sordid past of Maria’s family and blending it in with the present day characters.”
I loved this book. The transformation of Maria was remarkable to read. Ms. Lo Scuro does a fantastic job filling in the sordid past of Maria’s family and blending it in with the present day characters. Will visiting her Sicilian family turn this upper-middle class Brit into the person she has always feared she may become? Perhaps it was inevitable.
Linda Lo Scuro is as mysterious as Maria. Because this was the first book I’ve read by this author, I Googled her name to find out more about her. What I found out about Linda Lo Scuro is exactly what she wants us to know. This is not her real name and she will not be giving interviews. You can follow her on social media under her pseudonym, but her real persona will not be revealed. I admire her decision as well as her determination to stay anonymous amid the clamor of writing a truly remarkable and memorable novel. I think she is as interesting as her novel, which makes this a double win in my reading world.
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The plot, in a nutshell: Mary/Maria has a pleasant life with a loving husband and children, from whom she has kept secret her mother’s side of her family, who are Sicilian mafia. They are thrust into her life and she becomes involved in some terrible situations, drawn further and further into dangerous territory that puts everyone she loves at risk.
The things I loved about it: Mary’s identity is formed from drastically different parts of her life, leaving her feeling as though she fits nowhere. It’s not hard to feel that way, in this day and age, and makes for a lot of sympathy towards her character. The plot is fast, and makes for a gripping read. Though the tension grows rapidly throughout, the writing is witty and there are moments that are laugh out loud funny. Though life is extremely tough for them, there are an endless amount of strong women in the novel, with our protagonist having a horrendous start in life. A brilliant, thrilling read about real life grit...
The author: Linda Lo Scuro is a pseudonym, due to the sensitive nature of the story. I am so intrigued by mysteriously secret identities!
I rate this: 5 stars.
Worst hobby in the history of hobbies...’big-time serial tarting’
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“The charm of reading this book is that: always, and I mean always, the reader is satisfied with the result.”
Maria, the protagonist of The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter, is a retired, respectable teacher. Happy wife, mother of two daughters and Benjamin’s granny. Life is gorgeous in her West London residence (or not?), by the Thames, and lovely Maria has all the time in the world to read books, drink tea, enjoy the time with her beloved husband Humps (or not?), or do whatever she wants to do, all the day long. Or not?
Zia, the other main character, an influential, fragile looking, old woman, and Maria’s aunt, will turn her niece's way of life upside down. Despite appearances, Zia is made of iron. La famiglia before anything else is her motto, and she proves it along with the action of the book.
Suddenly Maria’s easy life turns into a fast stream, and she hardly manages to keep the direction. Her values and beliefs are washed away and she has to face fear and anger.
Written in the first person The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter immerses the reader deeply and actively and it blows away the benefit of the doubt for the perpetrators, because justice, in Mafia terms, is a matter of feelings, guts and immediate reaction. The charm of reading this book is that: always, and I mean always, the reader is satisfied with the result. A gun under the bed will make the owner more confident and his/her self-esteem 1000x higher. Just saying!
The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is a confrontation between raw, unpolished power (men) and the sophistication of women’s minds. Guess who will win in the end!
Manuela Iordache, Romania
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“Abused, scheming, vindictive, connected, murderous, victims and victors.”
Vaffanculo... I love the word as much as I love this book. Talk about attitude! Sicilian women are a surprising bunch according to Linda Lo Scuro's book "The Sicilian Woman's Daughter". Abused, scheming, vindictive, connected, murderous, victims and victors.
I loved discovering the story of Maria aka Mary who came from a poor Sicilian background to recreate herself in England as a successful and wealthy teacher and wife to a high flier bank executive.
She has just retired and with more time on her hands, she is encouraged to visit her Aunt Zia who lives in London also. Well, this little old lady is a complex web of hidden secrets and dodgy dealings. I don't want to tell here the extent of her power within the Sicilian underworld ...... but quite a few people are dead because of her scheming combined with her contacts. She is held in high regard and this goes along way in getting what you want in Sicily.
Maria goes for a family trip to Sicily and is further drawn into the shady world of mafia happenings....much to her dismay and attempts to stay removed from her past. Her morals and all she has created for herself/of herself are under threat.
I was fascinated by this story and can completely understand the fascination Linda Lo Scuro has also. The excitement of danger is enthralling.
Andrea Brown, New Zealand
* * *“It’s a must-read for mystery lovers.”
From the get-go (catchy title), The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter delivers an exciting multigenerational story. I enjoy reading fast-paced novels steeped in cultural drama. This one fulfils my love for mysteries and intrigue.
Linda Lo Scuro weaves the story about the daughter of Sicilian immigrants with layer upon layer of substance. Soak up the history and ride the turbulent waves of discovery as Maria learns about herself and the roles of women in the Sicilian families.
Carolyn Bowen, USA
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“A cracking good read”
This is a cracking good read and it brings to life the Sicilian family that Mary/Maria has tried to forget for over 30 years. Mary is married to Humphrey, a banker with two delightful daughters and a grandson. They live in an upmarket apartment and she has just retired from teaching in a series of prodigious schools. Despite her seemingly Englishness as the tale unfolds we learn of her connections to a family of women who are definitely Mafia and of her dreadful childhood of abuse and neglect. She has carefully created her place in society through her looks and intelligence making sure that her Sicilian family stays out of her life, that is until she reconnects with Zia her mother’s sister and through helping her she begins to expose dreadfully deeds that have occurred and are still occurring due to the women in her family. Her life is then torn apart by realising that she is just the same as her Sicilian family and she needs them to help her when the life of her immediate family is at risk.. A story that will bring alive the heat and the underbelly of life in a Mafia controlled Sicilian village.
Ann Gough, UK
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“This is an addictive read from page one to last and thoroughly enjoyable!”
I have always considered women to be the 'power behind the throne' (I apologize to all those Queens like Her Majesty and her husband who has to walk BEHIND her) and this book proves it to be true. It was fascinating to read about how different her lives were depending on where she was or WHO she was that day.
Janet Cousineau, Canada
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“An enthralling read on many levels.”
An interesting and thought provoking read this one. Mary also known as Maria has two identities - an Italian one and a British one. She now lives in London but returns to the place known as The Village, in Sicily to unpack the mysteries of her past.
She’s living a troubled life, not feeling part of the world she’s now in - She’s known not by her name by many but as “the Sicilian woman’s daughter” and this separation of identities and anonymity is crushing to read about.
Maria tells her story of her Sicily and the image the world has of that place - its mafia connections and how she and everyone from there is tarred with the same brush. As the story takes us on that (very fascinating) train journey across to the island, secrets start to float to the surface, as do the bodies from the depths of the water no doubt.
A fascinating look at the mafia stain on a family of women and what they have to do to survive, bring justice and not be a victim. There are four generations of women’s stories to immerse yourself in and this is a real treat, never too much nor too long. Sicilian words pepper the text as they would the pasta.
An enthralling read on many levels.
Book Trail, UK
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“Certainly exciting and riveting reading.”
Living in London Maria (Mary) has sought to escape her Sicilian roots keeping her family history away from her English husband and her children. However a cup of tea with her Sicilian aunt results in her being drawn back to her roots, and the mafia connections.
Maria tells her story, her memories of her mother, the visits to Sicily and family there. An enthralling glimpse into another world where grandmothers keep a gun close to hand, and it pays to be very respectful to others - who knows what mafia connections they may have. Maria has recently retired, is enjoying life in West London, and uses some of her free time to visit her aunt. In so doing she is drawn into Sicilian plots and intrigues, ranging from making a man love a woman to dealing with a violent husband. Eventually Maria takes her family to visit Sicily, and becomes embroiled in revenge and justice mafia style. Certainly exciting and riveting reading.
The book has a list of characters and Sicilian/Italian words at the front, which I found a little daunting, but in fact I only referred to them on a couple of occasions. Although the book covers 4 generations of Maria's family, it is very clearly written and I was never confused as to who was who. The Sicilian/Italian words used are done so in context, blend in well, and are mostly explained in the main text.
It was a fast moving book, included plenty of surprises, and gave an insight into different way of life and family ties. The book has left me wondering how much of it is based on the reality of life in some of the regions of this island. Thought provoking!
Emma B Books, Austria
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“Insightful, well written and I found the pace just right”
As I read this book I felt I was reading a true account of how ordinary lives can be turned upside down by family connections we try to remove ourselves (in this case the Mafia). Insightful, well written and I found the pace just right. The storyline took an interesting twist at the end which didn’t disappoint.
Dawn D’auvin, UK
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“Wow – this is a great story!”
Wow – this is a great story!
We start with Maria (Mary) presently in the UK, who feels that she is caught between two cultures – Sicilian and British – although she hasn’t been back home to her Sicilian village for over four decades. Having migrated to London as a child she now reads The Times, the Economist and the Financial Times. She has also joined the UK Conservative Party, and occasionally imitates BBC newsreaders to get a posh accent after graduating in English. She met and married Humps, an investment banker, and had two children with him. There are, however, Mafia links within Maria's family...
The writing is superb throughout and I see Linda Lo Scuro progressing to great success.
Phil Rowan, UK
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“I enjoyed it very much!”
The story was pleasing and easy to follow. When I started the book I read all the characters and thought I would lose a lot trying to keep everyone together to get to the end of the book, not so. It was written in just such a way that it was easy to follow all the players.
Maria grew up in England and Sicily with a mother who was very mean to her. Her mother would hit and beat her.
Peppina was the reason that Maria was forced into an arranged marriage. She also hit and kicked Maria so badly that Maria lost a kidney. Maria never told anyone about this but kept it bottled up inside her.
The story tells of all the things that the mafia had done in Sicily and brought over to London when another of Maria's aunts moved there. Her name was Zia! She at least helped Maria to get through her life!
The story was very interesting and very easy to follow. I would recommend it to all my family and friends.
Mary Weimer, USA
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“I really enjoyed the book.”
When I saw the list of characters at the front I thought I would never be able to remember the names or follow. But once I got into it, it was brilliant. I loved the sicilian translations.
Pamela Lewis, UK
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“A thoroughly enjoyable read.”
An exciting plot, great characterisation and an unexpected ending all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Millie Thom, UK
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OUTSTANDING. This book makes very interesting reading and a lot of research has gone into it. I also like Linda’s writing style, and the plot flowed. I have awarded this book 5 deserving stars.
Haley Norton, UK
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“Female sophistication and guns, poison, and network connections do the trick”
Family ties can be strong. The Sicilian Woman's Daughter shows how four generations of mafia women both protect and destroy. Maria, the protagonist, is a daughter of Sicilian immigrants to the British society. Where Maria herself seems to prefer settling in the UK and marries a local, her mother and grandma still pull. Illustrated in very Italian English, pull. Returning to The Village on Sicily is accompanied by three funerals and no wedding in sight. Women acting as perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, brutal murders, money laundering, alcohol and drug abuse, and adultery.
No matter how many rosaries you say, how faithful you are, there are always excuses to take revenge if that suits you well. Female sophistication and guns, poison, and network connections do the trick. The plot’s convincing and rich in local flavors.
Henk-Jan van der Klis, Netherlands
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“This book is full of cultural drama”
A very interesting and thought provoking book. This book is full of cultural drama, which I really enjoyed.
This book is about a woman who has been living with two identities. One as Mary who lives in London with her English family and the other as an Italian, a life that she has been trying to keep secret from her English family for over 30 years. (Don’t want to give anymore away)
The book is well written and flows consistently through to the end. This makes the book easy to read. It is written in the first person which makes you feel as if it’s a true account of Mary/Maria’s experiences rather than the story being fictional. While reading this book you can tell that Linda Lo Scuro has researched the topics covered in the book thoroughly.
I really liked how Linda has given a list of characters at the beginning of the book. When I first saw the list I thought, how am I going to remember all these characters, but as I started reading I didn’t have any trouble. Also, at the beginning there is a list of Sicilian /Italian words and definitions. I thought this was a great idea, also now I know a few basic words in Sicilian/Italian.
An interesting ending as I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did.
Definitely worth reading.
Manisha Natha, UK
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“This is a book that deserves a thorough read... ”
Firstly, I wanted to get my hands on this because of the research. The Sicilian mafia, the Italian roots of someone who's grown up in London. Bam! Perfect match.
But then the story starts flowing and is easy to follow and you find yourself carrying a lot more than you'd expected.
I mean what do I know about what it feels to grow up surrounded by the mafia?
While teaching English in Rome, I had a few students with stories that blew my mind. So, of course, seeing this synopsis I plunged right in. I can't say how genuine it is, but it sure reads well. Like a truly good book. Not like your typical commercial thriller about what most people assume is mafia from the movies.
That was exactly what I wanted. And that's exactly what I got.
I would love to read other works by Linda Lo Scuro.
Julie Parks, UK
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“This was definitely a satisfying read from start to finish!”
I really enjoyed Linda Lo Scuro style of writing it was like peeking into Maria's diary sometimes others it felt as intimate as having a conversation with Maria about her life. What an interesting life!
Marianne Peluso, USA
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“The book grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down!”
I went into this book without knowing anything about it and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. The book grabbed me and I couldn’t put it down!
Robin Ruiz, USA
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Very intriguing good read. Mary or Maria, as she has double identities, is a great heroine. Thought provoking.
Aggie Barnes, USA
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The book drew me in from the first page until the last. Thanks for the advanced copy :-). I’ll definitely be looking out for more to come from this author!
Tara Jill, USA
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I started reading this book without knowing what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.
This book is about a woman who has been living with two identities. On one hand she is Mary who lives in London with her English family, on the other she is Maria the daughter of Sicilian immigrants who come to England and it's a side to life that she has been trying to keep secret from her English family for over 30 years but becoming hard to hid for the past.
The book is well written and flows consistently through to the end it is written in first person which makes you feel as if it’s a true account of Mary/Maria’s experiences rather than the story being fictional. Well done to the author on producing an excellent read.
S Ballinger, UK
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“A highly accomplished debut novel”
Refreshingly original, emotive and with a number of unique facets to the story, this is a highly accomplished debut novel. I particularly liked the fact that the line between fact and fiction was beautifully blurred with the two sides rubbing along seamlessly. It has you questioning throughout whether a particular event actually did occur in real-life or whether it's a figment of the author's imagination. Either way, it makes for a very interesting read. Written under a pen name, and having released very few biographical details about herself, Lo Scuro has said that when writing The Sicilian Woman's Daughter that she wished to remain detached from the link her family have had to the mafia which could've led to upset and repercussions within her family circle. I guess this also answers the question of why her profile picture on Twitter is only an avatar/cartoon. This for me makes the book even more interesting and intriguing than it already was!
You can tell that the author knows what she is talking about regarding the mafioso women in this story and the impact this had on their lives, everything about it feels authentic. It is sad but also obvious to me that this secrecy regarding the author's name is essential, but spare a thought for her because, as she has mentioned in interviews, if the book is successful there would be no glory for her due to the anonymity - so this has both negative and positive aspects to it. She continues by saying that she would not have written it had she needed to disclose her identity, so a big shout out to the publisher for allowing this. A fascinating book, immediately engaging and thought-provoking from first page to last, with an intriguing backstory, Highly recommended.
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“A real treat”
We’ve seen the mafia movies and been fascinated by them, but now, fans of the genre are in for a real treat: seeing this world through the eyes of its women. The protagonist, Mary, is complex. She’s engaging and likeable, but underneath the layers lurks a troubled upbringing. She’s Sicilian and living in England now with her adoring and charming husband. Readers will love him.
The present and the past intermingle to draw readers into a world painted brilliantly with sensory details. We discover Mary and have the pleasure of hearing about a fascinating group of colorful characters. The cultural details draw a more complete picture and create understanding. But we also are reminded that there are more sides to the cultural story, of course.
Mary has a good life with her professional husband, but when she visits her aunt Zia, she gets drawn into helping her help others…but not in the typical way. Mary ends up seemingly out of her comfort zone running interference for Zia, but while performing certain actions, Mary draws deeply of her Sicilian heritage and then remembers where her family came from and what they were capable of. She does help others, but at times, this includes teaching people lessons. Readers wonder, will Mary cross a certain line eventually? Will things escalate and change this good woman into something else?
There are the stereotypical violent men in this book who bully women. But do the women have a voice? Is there anything they can do? Scuro’s female characters use their strength and their power and show a side to the whole mafia picture that isn’t often shown. The women do surprising things, making for gripping story.
There is a quote in the book by the female lead that sums up the struggle: “[The abuse]…when you’re an adult, it leaves you with a painful black hole inside; and you’re forever trying not to go to that dark center, moving around the perimeters and trying not to get swallowed up by it” (168-169).
Mary ends up doing things one wouldn’t have thought her capable of. Does this change the way a reader will view her? At any rate, Mary brings up profound ideas such as what anyone is capable of given exposure to the right people and circumstances. There are surprises in this book and lots of food for thought. It is a worthwhile read.
Long and Short Reviews
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“An engrossing novel”
The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is an engrossing novel with menace accompanying every character, as we weave through a precarious story of lives entwined with the Mafia. There is a simmering threat and unrelenting revelation about abuse and violence, that clings to a people steeped in the DNA of the Sicilian Mafia. “You no know a thing. In England accident happen, in Sicily accident organised.”
Mary (Maria) left Sicily as a young girl with her mother and father, returning only on short trips until she started University. Her early life was marred by physical abuse from her mother and her aunt Peppina, leaving her permanently physically damaged. Today Mary is a wealthy, refined, Englishwoman, happily married to Humps (Humphrey), with 2 daughters and a Grandson, and she has recently retired from teaching. The only connection Mary retained with her Sicilian background was with her facetious cousin Susi, at a similar age and as close as sisters. One day Mary gets a call from Susi asking her to meet with her mother, Zia (Mary’s other aunt). Zia was kind to Maria growing up and had immigrated to England shortly after Mary’s family, however, Mary hasn’t seen her aunt Zia since those early days, and she gives in to the request to meet. One quick meeting and she can go back to her normal life. Yeah Right! When they meet Zia pleads: “Yes, you come back tomorrow. You keep promise for Zia. I have friend. She have problem, she need you help.”
Linda Lo Scuro does a remarkable job of portraying the 'nature vs nurture' dilemma that Mary faces and while she is a cultured English woman when we first meet her, she knows her wider family circle live amongst a relentless, unforgiving and ruthless culture. How much of that 'nature' element will come to the fore when she agrees to return to Sicily with her own family, to resolve a wider family matter? While the writing is excellent, the incidents described, the tension built, and the character interactions, all have a feel of authenticity.
Through the first half of the novel it lacked a bit of pace, but when Mary and her family decide to go to Sicily the pace picks up and the plot is darkly entertaining. I really like the characterisation of Mary, as she has this deeper, calculated and revengeful side that has been hidden, even from her own family. No-one is to be taken for granted in this novel and surprises are sprung at unlikely times keeping the reader fascinated until the end.
Peter Donnelly, The Reading Desk
Print ISBN 9781907230691
E-book ISBN 9781907230707
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