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Midnight in Sicily
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Midnight in Sicily

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  458 ratings  ·  66 reviews
In an intoxicating mix of crime, travel, and food writing, the author sets out to understand both the historic roots of the Mafia and its central place in contemporary Italian politics.
Published 1996 by Duffy & Snellgrove
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The title promises a broader and more rounded view of Sicily than what we actually get. Instead of a balanced overview of many aspects of the history of the island, we get an awful lot of Cosa Notra, with the occasional short chapter, or even just a few paragraphs, on a particular typical recipe or representative work of art, and then it's back to the mafia stuff again. Which is fine, if that's what you're interested in. Personally I found myself skimming over some of the interminable and hopele ...more
Nick Lincoln
One of my favourite books, I've just re-read it for the third time (I've got an appalling memory, so it almost reads like new each time if I allow enough time to pass).

Robb weaves Sicilian history, the Mafia, food, culture, politics and intrigue into a heady brew. None of these themes are explored in real depth, so if you want a recipe book or a detailed history of Cosa Nostra then look elsewhere.

If you have an existing knowledge of the Sicilian Mafia and of general Italian history since 1945 th
I am trying to get a trip to Sicily organized for April. I thought this would help set the scene, though I am more interested in the volcanoes and food than the mafia. Anyone read it?

Agonizing structure--so disjointed. It isn't holding my attention, too many mafiosi. I've put it in the loo--but I think it means I've given up.
I enjoyed this book, the first of what I am sure will be many post-honeymoon Sicily books, immensely. It is part travelogue, part contemporary history. The unifying theme in a narrative that comprises journalism, personal reminiscence, history, geography, folklore, and astute criticism of painting, sculpture, literature, photography and food, is the domination of post-WWII Italian politics by organized crime and by the Sicilian Mafia in particular. Having lived for fifteen years in Naples, Robb ...more
The thing that is great about this book is the language. The topic is a bit grim, but the language is just enchanting.

You can just start anywhere and read onward from there.

Vicki Beyer
A tale of the Sicilian mafia and an Australian journalist's life in Italy. Interesting information but tedious to read. This man cannot write.
I bought this book in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Sicily and read it during my trip (although I must admit that I disliked it so much that I skimmed the last half). I have no doubt that Robb knows his way around Italy (or knew his way around Italy--the book is nearly 20 years old) and conducted a massive amount of research on Sicily (and other parts of Italy, most notably, Naples ), but the end result was painful to read--disorganized, disjointed, repetitive, and lacking a much-needed in ...more
Re-reading books can be a fraught business - the impression a book has on a reader can be a combination of the content of the book, the time and place it was read, the state of the reader's mind when reading, how receptive they were to the book's content, and how that content reacts to everything else in the reader's mind. Re-reading a book also takes time away from the possibility of reading something new....

Some books, I think, should not be re-read: they are a book for a certain stage of a re
Bruce McNair
Apr 28, 2012 Bruce McNair rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Italian history buffs
Shelves: history, crime, italy
This book tells the story of modern Sicily from its liberation in WW2 to the mid 1990s. Prior to this period, the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, had existed as another layer of society between the people and the government and controlled the daily lives of the masses. But since the war, the Mafia has also become enmeshed in and corrupted the politics of both Sicily and Italy. Having personally seen, heard, read and experienced Sicily and its rich past, this book fills in the modern picture through the a ...more
I would give this 3.5 stars if I could. This was a delightful read before my trip to Sicily. The book gives you a good understanding of the Sicilian mindset and the mafia mindset. It seems to cover...everything. Food, politics, past, present. The only problem I had with the book was that it felt like Robb was weaving one giant, messy spiderweb, and it was a bit hard to follow with him jumping around all over the place. I'm pretty sure we're MEANT to feel this way--Robb describes a Sicilian town ...more
Jim Rimmer
I am a fan of Robb’s and particularly fond of his conversational style. His lyrical and unapologetically bombastic style can sometimes be confronting while owing much to certain Australian storytelling traditions i.e. tall stories and pub yarns. There was one phrase very early in this book which I found so distasteful and disrespectful I almost put it to one side. But in the end I’m glad I persisted.

I had read John Dickie’s history of Cosa Nostra not long beforehand so was familiar with some of
A reader who loves many things Italian, I found this reporter's
account of Mafia influence in almost every aspect of Italian politics, justice and economics grimly fascinating. Interwoven with post WWII Italian history is ancient history, accounts of the lives of many Sicilian artists and writers and descriptions of the brave, isolated and very lonely people who sought and continue to seek justice in a corrupt environment.
The mafia bosses, their victims, their political allies, the landscape, the cuisine, the history all melded into a sonorous poetic narrative whose gravitas is only undermined by the author photograph on the back cover, which leaves me unable to read the book without the voice of Frasier Crane in my head. Which is a rather unfair reason to dock the book a couple of stars, but I'm being honest here! Fickle reader me?! I'm sure Sicily comes alive in this history and I'm sure I'll like it more the m ...more
This book is a fairly comprehensive account of mafia influence in Sicily and Italy during the 20th century. Much of the history is taken from firsthand accounts, and testimony used in numerous mafia trials. The stories are fascinating, the history is fascinating, but I just couldn't get into the writing style. Too much of the book was devoted to food, and villas and Renato Guttuso's lovers for my liking. Imagine Anthony Bourdain hosting a mafia documentary on Food Network. But without the wit.

To be honest, I thought at the beginning that Robb writes a kind of travel guide to Sicily about the usual stuff: its food, its people and its history. When I discovered it was a book about the Cosa Nostra, I tried to keep up with the ties between the many names. I got confused within a few chapters. As a result I watched the movie "Il Divo" about Andreotti and got the picture. I can recommend this book to those readers, who are into Mafia history and want to get a glimps at some historical fact ...more
I'm having a really difficult time slogging through this book. If it wasn't part of the Mediterranean book club I wouldn't even bother trying. I've set it aside to read the Book of Negroes and then I'll see if I can finish before the next club meeting... but I'm sure not motivated to read more about mafia shananigans.

OK, went back to this book and slogged some more. Still no narrative and every page seems to have new people introduced. I can't keep track of them and I don't care about them. Didn
I wanted more from this book than I got. The prose was sensuous, deliciously written. I thoroughly enjoyed the sections focusing on food, car trips, museum visits. I had difficulty following the main plot, however, due to the large number of characters introduced once and then offhandedly referenced later in important passages. Wait, was that Craxi or Liccio? Buscetta or Sindona? It was a frustrating experience searching through earlier chapters (which are beautiful in their meandering way, but ...more
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Not an easy read, in large part due to the large cast of nefarious characters (for which a chart or index would be very helpful). A depressing portrait of Sicily and of Italy after WWII, increasingly under the thrall of the Cosa Nostra. His occasional forays into food or literature or more distant history were welcome (a little romantic about the Arabs), just not long enough. The political/criminal detail was just relentless and while I am fascinated and appalled, the writing does not do enough ...more
Jan 07, 2010 keatssycamore rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Jersey Shore cast, except they can't read
Recommended to keatssycamore by: Giulio "The Situation" Andreotti
Shelves: history
It may be difficult to get into the rhythm of Peter Robb's writing (possibly due to so many unfamiliar, yet similar, Italian names), but the incredible portrait of Cosa Nostra in Sicily and Italian politics makes it worth the potential struggle. Not to mention that along with all that Cosa Nostra knowledge, you'll also be rewarded by the wonderful digressions on Italian art and food and literature and history that pepper the mafia narrative. Most especially if you've been to Sicily, or you plan ...more
Dec 04, 2012 S'hi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thinkers crime intrigue politics
An enthralling journey around the backstreets and through the hills and valleys of Sicily. Beginning with a market, Robb takes us through the intimacy of food into the political, economic and social life and the history of this region with a presence and perspective which touches into the culture and dealings of many other places both near and far. The multiple layers of meaning of the most simple words warns that nothing can be taken for granted. A deep education for us all.
This book took me a long time to get through. I found it difficult to read at times because I was trying to keep all the names straight. I struggled through it and I am happy i did because i learned a wealth of information about Italy and Sicily. It made me understand the need/want to come to America and what my ancestors were probably thinking when they jumped on the boat for a new country. I definitely have a new understanding of a country that I love so dearly.
Elle Saverini
While it's true I have to re-read a goodly number of Robb's paragraphs b/c his vocab and syntax way surpass my reading ability, the challenge is sweetly rewarded by the fruits of Sicily and the perils of the Mafia. Is it about food or crime? Robb is a chronicler of life in and around Palermo whose insights yield secrets invisible to any other foreign eye. The section on blk-wht photographer Leticia Battaglia is worth the book alone, as are the restaurant reviews.
When travelling to another part of the world, I always like to take a book about that region with me and this was my pick for our trip to Sicily. Having said that, it isn't really a holiday read - very factual with lots of names and political events to keep track of. However, although I wouldn't want to be tested on it, I do think I know a lot about post war Sicily and it was lovely to read about places we'd just been to and food and drink we had tasted.
This was one of the first of mixed genres, in this case, Travel, Cooking and History. Peter goes to Italy and Sicily and tells the story of the Mafia which I wouldn't have been that interested in but he tells it so amazingly well that I was spellbound.
I love the story of when he returned to his favourtie cafe` in Naples, having been away for many years and without saying a word, the barrista gave him his coffee (which was an unusual blend).
Utterly revealing, and not just about Sicily, because the Mafia's influence spread across Italy as well as the USA - including Berlusconi. It allowed them to infiltrate top echelons of power, which makes it more admirable to see people who were murdered by them, yet brave magistrates still pursued the Mafia right up until the present day. An amazing book, but I guess Peter Robb can never return to Sicily. His next book is about Naples.
This book can only be recommended to readers who are very interested in Sicily, Palermo in particular, and in Italian politics and the role of the mafia. The book is unorganized, likely by design, and has no footnotes or index. Sentence structure is often odd and paragraphs are long. In sum, it is a difficult and slow read.
Having said that, there is a ton of fascinating stuff here. It just took forever to read.
A well researched, well written book about a fascinating topic, the Cosa Nostra. This is the book to buy when traveling to Sicily for a holiday and my recommendation is to open it's pages only when you have landed. But, even when not planning a trip to the island, Midnight in Sicily is both an educational and enjoyable read -- and your are not likely to get such a look at the Sicilian mafia anywhere else.
the quantity of information that Robb tries to present is overwhelming, and at times, clearly too much for even the most discerning reader. However, the subject matter was so fascinating that I have to give it a 5. unbelievable stuff about Italian mafia, politics, culture, food and art. not recommended for anyone who doesn't already know a lot about would just be too confusing for you!
Alice Whaley

Fascinating and totally chilling examination of the history of the Sicilian Mafia and it's links with Italian politics. It's well written in a very personal and slightly idiosyncratic way and could have benefited from a bit of rigorous editing but it is definitely a classic. You will never look at life in the Mezzogiorno in quite the same way after reading this!
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