Book-Review: The Sicilian

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02/07/2011 by Siddiqui Fayesal

A few friends on facebook are a part of this Reading Group called Book-Had. Its got its own blog too. Two of us thought of the whole thing and decided to have a group where we’d vote on a monthly basis; Read the winner and discuss it too. The Blog is used for the reviews we write. Till the end of May 2011 things were as per the rule book. But after that we thought of changing the base of the group radically. We don’t vote now. All the members read what THEY want to then they come and share how interesting and brilliant the book was. Or, in some cases, how they were totally insipid and immature.

Members take turn writing the review and the one that you’ll read below was the one written by me. Since I wrote it i’m taking the liberty of posting it on my personal web-page as well. I’m sure the group admin won’t mnd:-p

The book’s name: The Sicilian.

The Author’s name: Mario Puzo

We just finished reading the book for the month of October 2010, and I should add that we are thoroughly pleased with it as compared to our previous foray into the reading arena. The Sicilian was both, educating and thrilling, with a perfect dash of drama thrown in to make sure that no one from the audience is left out to cheer a “Hurray” when the times comes for the finale.

The Sicilian is based on a true story. Now, this was something most of us found out after reading the book and it made us see the story in a different light. It is a brilliantly told story of a young man who, in his inherent passion to do good, is forced to lead a life of a bandit. The rest, as they say, is history!

The story begins when Michael (Yes, the very same Michael Corleone) has a meeting with the Don of Sicily, Croce Malo, to successfully get Salvatore “Turi” Guiliano out of Italy and into America. The reason for the deportment of Turi is that he has become a threat to the Italian government and to Don Croce himself. The reason for the threat is a testament maintained by Turi that could blow the entire Italian government up. It has the name of officials and politicians with enough proof to send them to hell on an Apollo 13.

The story of Turi, being true, has an extra sonorous effect when we put ourselves in his situation. Would any man be able to do what this man did? Taking a risk to free villagers who were wrongly being detained in the barracks; coming face to face with the barrel of a gun and hearing the click of fate only to realise the immortal state he’s been granted by God himself; and then taking into his group the very man who pointed that gun at him. Turi walked the path walked by none other. Turi holds honour, justice and self-righteousness at the highest level of human decency and practices the same before he preaches. The book mentions a legend that the poor Sicilians, before going to bed, ended their prayers every night with a “…and please save Guiliano from the Carabinieri.” The character of Turi has been painted so beautifully that it is difficult not to like him and it is difficult to detach yourself from the cause he believes in. What makes him more vulnerably-lovable is his age – Turi is a bandit who is only in his early 20s. He is only, yet a boy.

The other important character, Gaspare “Aspanu” Pisciotta is shown to be Turi’s most loved childhood friend, and second in command of their band. He has complete faith and an unending loyalty for his friend but there are times when Aspanu doesn’t agree with the moves of Turi. Too loyal to talk about him behind his back and too faithful to question him, Aspanu bears it all. It is a voyeuristic pleasure to see two men share such close bonds. Two men who think quite differently on certain things. Two men who love each other like only men in their situation can afford to. Because for a bandit it is one of the most important thing to know whom he can trust. And to have someone so trustworthy by ones side at all times is a comforting thought. The representation of Aspanu is brilliantly portrayed in the book. He is shown to be his aide, confidante, strength and brother.

Another character to reckon with is, Turi’s Godfather, Hector Adonis – a professor of Literature in the University of Palermo and a very able man. Again, like a mark of humanness he suffers from being a very short man. Hector is very close to Don Croce too. He is very close to the “Friends of the Friends”. In spite of being very close to the Don against who the boys are pitching, Hector has a special liking for the two boys. He tries his level best to stop them from becoming bandits but when he sees that they are not to be swayed he gives them their wholehearted support.  He plays a very important part towards the end, which the other readers have to find out for themselves.

As the book unfolds in various layers, we are told that Turi’s image takes a plunge after the historic event of the ‘Portella della Ginestra’. Men and women, who looked up to him as their savior, after this event, looked at him in doubt. And after this incident Turi is forced to flee into hiding, so much so, that he is to be now deported to America and Michael Corleone is supposed to take him away. To eradicate their fear and to get back at the Don who ensnared him, Turi decides for a finale before he flees to America.

The young Corleone, without even meeting, the legendary Turi has a deep respect for him already, and armed with the Testament he is all prepared to bring the downfall of the Mafia and the corrupt Italian regime. He wants to finish what Turi gave his life for. Whether he is able to help Turi or not, we’ll let you find out for yourself.

To sign off, The Sicilian is a story of truth, justice and righteousness. How it is suppressed, and how, sometimes, it might also make sense. It is a story of the state of Sicily where men and women roam with fear in their heart. It is a story of the beautiful countryside that is besmirched with bloodshed, totalitarian regime, treachery and lust.

But more importantly, it is a story of Salvatore “Turi” Guiliano. A man who regarded the poor with dignity. A man who saw what the world refuses to see. A man who cried the tears of the ones in need. A man who had the fearlessness to stand with his head held high against the money rich mafia who infested the poor farmers off their rights, exfoliating every pleasure off their bare backs. The Sicilian is the story of Turi Guiliano. And we dare you to not like Turi.

Book-Had rates ‘The Sicilian 3.5/5.

– Siddiqui F.

(26.11.2010)

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