Sunday, June 29, 2008

'The Scortas' Sun'

by Laurent Gaudé
(Originally published in French as Le Soleil des Scorta, published in the US and Canada as The House of Scorta.)
Translated from the French by Andrew Brown
Fiction/Literature, 2004 (France), 2006 (English translation)
Hesperus Press, hardback, 202 p.
WINNER of the Prix Goncourt, 2004
Boasting a notorious brigand as an ancestor, the Scorta family is born into extreme poverty in the small Italian village of Montepuccio. Each successive generation must confront their heritage and attempt to wrest a living out of the sun-scorched fields of Apulia, while passing on their pride, their cherished memories, and their passionate appetite for life. Spanning five generations of Scortas, the family’s deepest secrets and fiercest passions are at last revealed by Carmela as she makes her final confession to the village priest.
A profoundly human work set in the glorious landscape of southern Italy, Laurent Gaudé’s sweeping, cinematic tale of family life won the Prix Goncourt in 2004.
I really felt I was armchair travelling while reading this book, as it transported me to the hot, sun-scorched landscape of the Apulia region of southern Italy. The story covers several generations of the Scorta family from a rather illustrious beginning. Sometimes the author gives detailed descriptions that really bring the people and events to life, other times the story skips ahead several years down the road. In this way it was like snapshots of their lives laid out to tell their story. Despite the secrets, passions, and regrets of each successive generation, what comes through is their strong attachment to the land and the importance of family. Like the previous book I read, it was the vividly portrayed setting that really made this an enjoyable read.
Olives are eternal. A single olive doesn’t last. It grows ripe and rots. But olives succeed one another, in an infinite, repetitive way. They’re all different, but the long chain of them is endless. They have the same shape, the same colour, they have been ripened by the same sun and have the same taste. So yes, olives are eternal. Like men. The same infinite succession of life and death.
My Rating: 4/5
(#27 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #12, Orbis Terrarum Challenge #2)

Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll add the link here.


  1. I haven't ever heard of this book but it does sound like a good one. Family history type books that span generations can be really fascinating whether fact or fiction.

  2. Wendy- It was nice because it had an epic feel but wasn't epic in length. :)

  3. Dear Tanabata,

    Thank you very much for this lovely review; I'm so glad that you enjoyed this book. I agree with you that it's like armchair travel; in fact, it's great for literal travel as well and makes for great holiday reading as it's both exotic and incredibly absorbing. Anyway, I'm gushing now, but thanks again. If you enjoyed this, you might also like another of our contemporary titles, Yasmine Ghata's 'The Calligraphers' Night', which is similarly epic in content if not in length.

    All the best,

    Ellie, Hesperus Press

  4. Ellie,
    Thanks for stopping by. I was a little worried since the last post on the blog was about being hacked and the website is under construction... hope everything is running smoothly again soon.
    I'm glad to hear that 'The Calligraphers' Night' is similar since it's already on my shelves waiting to be read.


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