Mark Steed's Reviews > The Leopard

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
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bookshelves: classic-literature, giuseppe-di-lampedusa, historical-fiction, italian, sicily

Based on a true story and written by the last of the line, The Leopard is an exquisitely written book that traces the decline of an aristocratic family as it comes to terms with the socially and politically changing world of mid nineteenth century Sicily in the wake of Garibaldi's invasion in 1860.

At the head of the family is the Prince, Don Fabrizio. Proud and stubborn, he is accustomed to knowing his own place in the world and expects his household to run accordingly. He is aware of the changes which are rapidly making men historically obsolete but he remains attached to the old ways.

1CI am a member of the old ruling class, inevitably compromised with the Bourbon regime, and bound to it by chains of decency if not of affection. I belong to an unlucky generation, swung between the old world and the new, and I find myself ill at ease in both. 1D p.133

1CWe were the Leopards and Lions; those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals and sheep, we'll go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth. 1D p.137

As the novel progresses, the Prince is forced to choose between compromising his loyalty to tradition and accepting the decline of his family's influence.

In contrast, his charming impoverished favourite nephew, Tancredi, despite being a conservative at heart, takes a much more pragmatic approach.

1CUnless we ourselves take a hand now, they'll foist a Republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. 1D p.22

He can see that the tide has turned and, having little to lose, goes against his class, first siding with Garibaldi, then marrying for wealth [and beauty] outside his class.

The novel narrates the subtle changes which gradually erode the influence of the aristocratic family as it declines from its central role in Sicilian society to a peripheral one.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 1, 2016 – Shelved
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: classic-literature
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: giuseppe-di-lampedusa
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: italian
April 1, 2016 – Shelved as: sicily

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