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Who is Maria Rosalia Inzerillo, known to everyone as Mennulara, the almond picker? The daughter of poor farmers, she lived her whole life in the Sicilian village of Roccacolomba. As a girl she was forced into service, yet somehow over the decades she took control of the Alfallipe family’s affairs and, it is whispered, became a wealthy woman.
Now Mennulara is dead…and nobody seems certain of anything about her. In this brilliant novel—a bestseller in Italy and the winner of five major prizes—Simonetta Agnello Hornby has created a splendid cast of characters, among them the greedy Alfallipe children hunting for Mennulara’s will, and the villagers who all love to gossip. Was Mennulara a seducer, a blackmailer, a humble servant or an arrogant social climber? And why does don Vincenzo Ancona, the feared mafia boss, come to her funeral?
The rumours begin to suggest a more passionate and intricate mystery. Perhpas Mennulara lived a life of independence, honour and fidelity. Did she have the courage to seek and find her freedom? The Almond Picker is an unforgettable novel in which little by little the extraordinary truth is revealed.
‘Reading it is like sitting at a little table in the local tavern in Roccacolomba and witnessing, in the noonday heat, the inexhaustible spectacle of life there.’
‘This is a beautifully written book. An unrelenting page-turner…It’s a work that echoes long after its reading.‘
‘Thanks to the Mafia and writers such as Giuseppe di Lampedusa, we know the painful contours of Sicily’s history and people. This is Hornby’s first novel and, despite the well-mapped territory, the London-based lawyer born in Palermo has triumphed. The suspense comes from piecing together the truth about a dead woman, Maria Rosalia Inzerillo…To some Mennulara is a saint; to others, she’s a thief and a whore…The Almond Picker is an intricately plotted mystery.’