Amid the horror, a man is born

The final chapter in a Tuscan trilogy

Kolina Cicero
June 17, 2010

A dynamic conclusion to Paul Salsini's Tuscan trilogy of historical fiction, Dino's Story: A Novel of 1960s Tuscany is a tale of the young boy, Dino Sporenza, who we watch grow up throughout the series. The trilogy opens during World War II with The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany, a convincing account of the inhabitants of Sant'Antonio (in reality, San Martino in Freddana, a small town in the province of Lucca). Ordered by the Germans to leave their village, they take refuge in nearby farmhouses in the hills as troops pillage Sant'Antonio and kill the townspeople. The second book, Sparrow's Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany, tells the story of a partisan's redemption 10 years after his loved ones were victims of a Nazi-run massacre. An awkward, quiet preteen in this book, Dino learns the art of forgiveness.

 

Salsini develops his commendable protagonist by making his life a product of war, desperation and, finally, a natural disaster. In the final novel, we find out exactly who Dino Sporenza is. Born just after the villagers return to their homes in Sant'Antonio in The Cielo, Dino grows up to be a talented artist and spends the majority of his time in self-imposed solitude. Despite his parents' pleas that he remain in their rebuilt village, Dino heads to Florence, the city of art and home to his artistic idols. He attends the Accademia di Belle Arti, solidifying his artistic talent. Too reserved to make many friends, Dino rarely breaks out of his seemingly impenetrable shell or routine: he visits the same museum every Sunday, walks a usual route down the river and finds solace in his miniscule room, playing his guitar.

 

Here enters Father Lorenzo, a chipper priest who helps Dino fashion his new, mature life. He starts to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, making friends along the way. When the flood of November 4, 1966, rages through the city, leaving 20,000 families homeless, Dino finds himself helping the needy, saving a life and figuring out who he is. He does all this while attempting to rebuild bridges with his desolate uncle, who has been estranged from the family for years. As the mud-filled streets and homes are leaned, Dino finds he is no longer just a boy from a village, but a man in the city.

Dino's Story contains a compelling account of the catastrophe Florentines experienced as the floodwaters washed away everything they knew. Devouring a good part of this book while sitting on the benches in Piazza Santa Croce, I felt as if I were experiencing the flood, and I developed an eagle eye for the Arno's watermarks throughout the city. Salsini puts the devastating events of 1966 into perspective, and while consistently providing an easy read, he offers the reader a time machine through which one can re-live those moments. With its archival photos, Dino's Story could almost be mistaken as a real-life account of the flood that struck Florence.

 

TUSCAN TRILOGY

 by Paul Salsini

 

 The Cielo:

A Novel of Wartime Tuscany

Sparrow's Revenge:

A Novel of Postwar Tuscany

Dino's Story:

A Novel of 1960s

 

All published by iUniverse (available in Florence at Paperback Exchange and other local bookstores; for those out of town, see www.thecielobook.com)

 

 

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