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La Mennulara

· The novel ·

Mennulara is the almond-picker, the poorest of the poor. The novel by Simonetta Agnello Hornby, La Mennulara (Feltrinelli, 2002; English translation: The Almond-Picker, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005;Picador, 2006 (paper-back edition) is about her – Maria Rosa Inzerillo – and about her life in Sicily in the 1960s. Mennulara is a gruff and touchy woman, but intelligent and endowed with extraordinary determination. The author sculpts her portrait in stone: Maria Rosa knows no weaknesses, she does not allow herself feelings, and succeeds because of this character of hers – humble and semi-literate as she is – in becoming first maid then housekeeper and finally administrator of a wealthy noble Sicilian family. Even in a life which seems reduced to work, effort and self-denial, which includes nothing but harshness, one glimpses secret relationships, strong feelings, wordless moments of despair. With her death the mystery that enfolds her grows denser, for Mennulara, who administered the possessions of a rich noble family in her lifetime, succeeds in doing so even after her death, preserving properties, land, incomes and even the future of the last heirs. Her struggle against poverty knows no reprieve. (@ritannaarmeni)

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