Monday, June 4, 2012

The House of Serenades by Lina Simoni


In 1910 Genoa, an Italian port city of divided classes and ancient power struggles, the Berillis are wealthy, powerful, and respected—until the day their darkest secrets begin to surface. Once the police intervene and the gossip grapevine is set in motion, the Berillis’ demise is unavoidable. But love lives on, and there’s a mandolin player in town who is not giving up on the girl of his dreams. Never underestimate the power of music. The House of Serenades is a brilliant portrait of the Italian upper class at the turn of the 20th century, its habits, its ways of life. At the same time, the story denounces the abuse and repression of women (sisters, daughters, wives) that were so frequent in those years. 


I read Lina Simoni’s previous novel, The Scent of Rosa’s Oil and absolutely loved it. So I was eager to read THE HOUSE OF SERENADES! I was as enchanted with this second novel as I was the first. When you open the pages of THE HOUSE OF SERENADES, you will experience the fascinating culture of Italy’s golden era. From the grand salas in the homes of the wealthy nobility to the humble shops of the working class, this story explores how the social classes were distinct and so greatly divided. 

At the heart of the story is the patriarch of the Berelli family, Giuseppe Berelli, a man who has hidden a deep, dark secret for most of his life. Now in the twilight of his years, the secret that he has so faithfully kept, is about to be revealed. He struggles to keep it secret because it can ruin not only his social status, but his entire life and all that he has worked for. It is shocking how far this man went to protect his name and status. A wonderful, dark antagonist! 

The love story is about a young woman from the highest classes of society who falls in love with a baker’s son and their two families who try to keep them apart. After learning that his daughter has lost her virginity to her lover, her father banishes her to a strict convent. At the same time, his two sons bring more troubles to the family, one through unruly drunkenness, and the other highly aggressive. And to stir the tension further, there is a corrupt doctor desperate to keep his own secrets and a nosy police chief who is anxious to uncover the secrets of a crime. 

With plenty of subplots to keep readers interested and hooked, there is plenty to like. Larger than life, highly believable characters pepper this book’s pages. Hatred, bitterness, unrequited love, corruption, and a profound love story kept me turning the pages, eager to read on. This is an epic family saga, filled with plenty of tension and a story line that not only fascinates, but is highly satisfying. 

The plight of Italian women in the early 20th century was clearly portrayed through Caterina and Matilda. Their stories were not only poignant, but heartfelt as their helplessness and inability to take control of their lives brought to life the many struggles faced by women of their time. As a person with a strong Italian background and able to read and write in both languages, I found the story authentic to the times and culture. 

About the Author 

Lina Simoni is the author of a children’s book, Sofia’s Rainbow, and the award-winning novel, The Scent of Rosa’s Oil. She is at work on her third novel, The Cabinet Spell. Simoni lives in Southern California. She is also a photographer and artist. Her artistic and literary work is on Facebook and

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