Bestselling writer Gay Talese uses his own family history to tell the epic story of an Italian family over three generations. Moving from a tiny feudal village in southern Italy to the battlefields of the First World War, to Paris in the 1920s, and finally to the promised land of America, Unto the Sons is a brilliant mixture of history and story ...
Bestselling writer Gay Talese uses his own family history to tell the epic story of an Italian family over three generations. Moving from a tiny feudal village in southern Italy to the battlefields of the First World War, to Paris in the 1920s, and finally to the promised land of America, Unto the Sons is a brilliant mixture of history and story-telling. Talse carries us into the nineteenth- century patriarchal world of his great-grandfather in the village of Maida (after which London's Maida Vale was named) - a region immersed in the mysticism of the Church and haunted by echoes of Roman glory and the subsequent waves of foreign invasion. His story moves from Italy to America and back again as it follows the men of the village, among them the author's grandfather. Their half-lives in a Pennsylvania factory town are vividly evoked, as are their infrequent reunions with their wives, the fabled "white widows" left behind in Italy, who summon up the passion to make a place for themselves and their children. The story takes a new turn as one of these children, Joseph, comes to America in 1920 - marrying, making his way, embracing the new world yet unable wholly to relinquish the old. Joseph's painful sense of divided loyalty is intensified by the outbreak of World War II, and embodied in his relationship with his American-born son, the young author, who sees himself as an "alien" under his father's roof, yet still an "outsider" on the flag-waving Protestant island of Ocean City. Interweaving historic fact with details gathered from family tales, interviews, letters and diaries, Gay Talese has juxtaposed his family's adventures with the dominant events and disasters that have affected their lives. Encompassing three generations and two World Wars, Unto the Sons combines the breadth of history with the intimate dreams of family. It is a captivating human story that powerfully evokes the universal experience of immigration.
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Publishers Weekly, 1992-01-01 Filtering the history of Italian immigration to America through the personal saga of Talese's family, this massive and masterful volume recreates the author's ancestral home in the Southern Italian backwater of Maida, vivifying a superstitious, impoverished, apolitical and powerless underclass that for centuries was exploited by both its own aristocracy and a parade of foreign rulers and invaders. In Maida the author's great-grandfather Domenico ruled his farm with an iron hand; lured by a dream of prosperity, Talese's grandfather Gaetano left his family in Italy and worked himself to an early grave in a Pennsylvania asbestos-factory town. Gaetano's son Joseph witnessed the devastation that WW I heaped on his village, apprenticed as a tailor to a kindly uncle in Maida, later joined a cousin who had made his way to Paris, and eventually followed his late father's path to America in 1920. Talese ( Thy Neighbor's Wife ) nimbly juggles a large variety of characters, events and settings. An aloof loner, Talese's first-generation American mother, Catherine, grew up in an insular Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.; the walls of her home were hung with crucifixes, and her parents, who had both experienced tragic earlier marriages in the old country, wore the dark clothes of mourning. Raised in Ocean City, N.J., as a minority within a minority (an Italian in an Irish Catholic parish on a Protestant island), Talese recalls an exacting father who never played ball with him and who used him as a mannequin for his clothing creations. A story that will resonate for parents and children of every nationality relates how Joseph, torn between his loyalty to his adopted homeland and his love for his family in Italy, lost control of himself during WW II; upon learning that the Allies had bombed an abbey in southern Italy, he shut his ears to his son's cries and destroyed the fleet of model U.S. aircraft that Gay had painstakingly built. 300,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (Feb.)
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