The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

This is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read for years.  It’s been there so long I don’t even remember when or why I bought it.

For some reason it caught my attention when I was looking for a book to read on the train so I decided now was the time to read it.

It is about the aristocratic Salina family who live near Palermo in Sicily and is set during the Risorgimento or Italian unification.

The central character is Prince Fabrizio Salina, a middle-aged, modern-minded scientist who sees the need for change yet is too indolent and hide-bound by his family history to be part of that change.  His nephew, more like him than his own children, is in the thick of the changes and is an up and coming man.

The book shows, through Salina’s eyes, the transition of Sicily from Bourbon principality to inclusion in this new thing called “Italy”.  It tracks the transition from aristocratic rule to professional government and the rise of the middle-class. Yet Salina continues in his belief that the more everything changes the more everything stays the same.

The book wraps up with the Princes’ death from a stroke and a post-script relating what happens to the children as they grow old.

I found the book quite hard to read.  I like the fact that I now know more about the Risorgimento and the upheavals it caused in long-established states.  It was interesting to understand how the hereditary ruling class was being gradually displaced by the growing middle-class and professional class. But it was the reading equivalent of going for a walk in the midday sun in Palermo, slow and languorous!  It might have been better if I’d read it in the evening.  It certainly didn’t lend itself to waking me up on my commute. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

Click here to find out more about Risorgimento

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