Now and Then in Tuscany

“Mornings were steel edged now, water on the village font ice-crisp. Instead of clear blue skies, tatters of clouds stuck fast between firs on the mountain slopes and leaves on the beech trees dropped yellow and rust to the forest floor. Some days our village floated upon a sea of clouds, forming an island, heralding the separation from the rest of the world that winter would bring.

Before I drifted into sleep, I lay on my sack mattress stuffed with dried corn-cob leaves and contemplated the stars. I wondered if the sky would look the same down on the Maremma plains. It was time to leave. 
Tomorrow the men and older boys would be setting off. Boots had been mended; in fact I had lost count of how many old shoes I had studded with nails to help them last the eight-day journey down mule tracks and dusty mountain roads. Paolo, our neighbour, had a new pair of goatskin breeches and had proudly shown me his stick, whittled from chestnut wood in the evenings by his fireside. On one end he had skilfully worked a hook to yank necks of wayward sheep. Rossella, his wife, had wrapped chunks of pancetta in cloth and he had bought himself a sturdy green umbrella from the fair at Ranco.
I believed Mamma had no inkling I would soon be gone. Part of me felt bad; she wanted me hear her now she understood our brother, Francesco, was never coming back from the battle of Asiago. One of the shepherds who had come to have his clogs repaired told us the newspapers had reported the deaths of 147,000 men. And all for what? At the seminary, during a geography lesson, Fra Alonso had shown us the range of mountains called Altopiano where the battle had been fought. I remember hoping, for my brother’s sake, that those mountains were as beautiful as the Apennines he had left behind here. On the newly-erected monument in the square in Badia Tedalda, when everybody had disappeared after the commemoration service, I had crouched down and run my fingers over the raised letters of my older brother’s name: Francesco Tommaso Starnucci. I wanted to feel close to him, have some sort of connection. But instead all I felt were twenty five cold, metal shapes.
Since the episode with Fra Domenico, I vowed never to return to the seminary in Arezzo and I’d been making secret preparations. I removed Nonno’s moth-eaten wool cloak from the wooden trunk at the end of my parents’ high matrimonial bed. I’d been squirreling away morsels of pecorino cheese and wild boar sausage whilst Mamma wasn’t looking and wrapping them in a rag in readiness for my departure. And nothing was going to stop me.”

Synopsis
In 1917, in a remote Tuscan village in the Apennines, young Giuseppe Starnucci escapes from abuse and travels from his mountains to the Maremma coastal area, with other shepherds bound for better pastures – a ritual known as la transumanza. Along this annual trek, he experiences many hardships, including the ever-present threat of malaria, bandits and a long, five month separation from his family. But having fled from one kind of cruelty, he suffers again at the hands of a bully and begins to regret his decision to leave home. Eventually he finds companionship with other young apprentices along the way and a new world opens up for him as he discovers new places and friendships. Just as his life is taking a turn for the better, he meets a young village tart who leads him astray. Interwoven with this story of one hundred years ago, is the picture of his present-day descendants. His great grandson, Davide has to research the transumanza for a school project. His family become involved with the research and secrets from the past are uncovered. “Now and Then in Tuscany” takes the reader on a journey of self-awareness, coming of age and romance. “This funny, fascinating and moving novel mixes a lively enjoyment of things as they are now with a sensitive appreciation of the sadness of vanished communities.” (Rose, Amazon reviewer). Both stories are laced with rich accounts of how life used to be – a result of the author’s extensive research and love of Italian culture. History and narrative meld together successfully to produce a hybrid of a novel. If you like Italy, you will enjoy reading about traditions and folklore still revered in modern times but love is never far away from Italian life and there is passion and humour enough to be enjoyed in this book.
I’m British but a bit of a wanderer: born in Germany, I’ve lived and worked in Italy, Holland and Tanzania, East Africa. Everywhere, I gather stories and, having been a serious bookworm all my life, I’ve now written two historical romances of my own.

“If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down.” (From Books in my Handbag blogger).

“It reminds me in many ways (though it is less relentlessly tragic!) of “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, the prize-winning film by Ermanno Olmi – it has the same intensely imagined and exquisitely recreation of a lost way of life.” (Rose. Amazon reviewer)

“The book is full of subtle yearning. The prose is evocative. The historical narrative is impressively authentic and riven with the author’s love of her subject.” Carmen Amato

Now and Then in Tuscany Book Trailer

In 1917, in a remote Tuscan village in the Apennines, young Giuseppe Starnucci escapes from abuse and travels from his mountains to the Maremma coastal area, with other shepherds bound for better pastures – a ritual known as la transumanza.
Along this annual trek, he experiences many hardships, including the