Monday, 29 January 2018
Family Concerns (An Eccentric in Lucca Book 3) by Stuart Fifield
Family Concerns (An Eccentric in Lucca Book 3) by Stuart Fifield was one of the books I've won on Goodreads last year.
Though it is a third book in the series, it reads perfectly well as a standalone.
The main protagonist is La Contessa di Capezzani-Batelli, who lives in Lucca with her short-tempered and spoilt dog and dyspeptic maid Elizabeth. All three can be called characters in equal measure. Elizabeth is a veritable harridan, and it's not quite clear why she is still keeping her job, when she is as lovable as a bubonic plague. She might have been with a family for half a century, but she is rather obnoxious.
The Contessa - the eponymous eccentric - is well known among the Lucchesi as a benefactor for many a charitable project.
In Family Concerns she is organising her next big fund-raiser together with Arthur Crowe who is a conductor of Banda Inghiltalia.
With her son Luigi's support, they embark on a project of extending the local hospice premises. They buy a house next door to redevelop it as part of hospice. The story of the house and the family who lived there is touching and immensely sad. It reminded me of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis which chronicles the lives of the Italian Jews.
You will meet all the members of the Contessa's Chamber Opera Group of Lucca, whom she calls her angels. They are far from being angels, however, and their private lives are complicated and definitely not angelic.
There are lots of individual stories, and at some point I felt rather confused, going back to the beginning to figure out who is who.
The Italian setting is enjoyable, you will soak up all the sights and smells.
Years ago I was a guest at a British-Italian wedding held in a small Tuscan village, outside Pienza. The food and scenery were spectacular, the wedding guests were like characters in an opera. I was an outsider, as I hardly knew anyone but it was an interesting anthropological experience. A pity, the marriage didn't last a year. But the setting was marvellous.
The book brought back memories of those few days in the Tuscan countryside. I think we travelled through Lucca, but had no time to explore this historic town.
There are also murders and a mafia business subplots, a newly opened fish and chips shop which proves to be a total disaster, love affairs and a love child, and a glorious concert to attend.
I found the end of the book a bit rushed. The murder mysteries are not solved satisfactorily. And I was rather shocked that one of the characters goes scot free for the brutal violence against his wife.
If you enjoy books set in Italy, Family Concerns is an entertaining read. I am definitely going to find the first two books in the series.