Once again, Rosanne Dingle has set her story in an exotic location. Fiesole is a day trip into the hills from Florence in Tuscany, Italy. Interesting settings are a hallmark of this author’s writing. She writes convincingly and enticingly about place. In A Funeral in Fiesole, one can feel the rain and smell the damp.
Four siblings gather for the funeral of their mother. In the course of the novel we learn about this family. We learn about their memories and their relationships with each other. We read about each one’s relationship with their deceased mother. We find out about their partners, their hopes, dreams, and expectations.
As in any adult family, there are undercurrents. There are preconceptions, expectation, envy, even dislike. Some of these are confounded in the course of the novel.
The family is preoccupied. Not only are they concerned about the funeral of their mother. This is organised by Nigel, the son who with his wife, has cared for the mother in her later years. Of course, not everyone likes how he has arranged the funeral.
The overarching concern of the novel is the inheritance each of the siblings will receive. How, in her will, has their mother distributed the wealth of the family? Who will lose out? Who will gain most? Will the desires of each of the siblings be met? This is the thread that draws the story along. Rosanne Dingli drops hints that eventually make sense. The ending is a satisfying surprise.
Each of the siblings has his or her own preoccupations and worries. These are woven into their individual stories. Well-rounded characters are revealed, little-by-little. The reader comes to care about each one, in spite of, or perhaps because of, their flaws and frailties. Even minor characters come alive.
The structure of the novel is curious. Each of the siblings tells his or her own story. Chapters are allocated to each in turn. Relationships are revealed piecemeal. This structure could create dislocation for the reader. But in Rosanne Dingli’s hands, it works remarkably welll.
The novel is set in a crumbling villa. The frescos, the ceilings, the gardens desperately need care and attention. This setting is so real that the villa is almost another character. It needs to be restored, to be brought back to life, lived in.
The language used by this author is, as always, beautiful, and slightly unconventional.
This is the first of my six reviews for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2016. You can read more about the challenge here.