Thursday, July 30, 2009


Have you ever been to one of those big family gatherings where the elders start telling family stories, remembering people and events from many years ago? It's always fascinating to sit and listen to the history of your great-grandparents, and their great-grandparents, and have these names emerge as fully-fleshed individuals.
Been Here a Thousand Years is like that. Mariolina Venezia tells the story of a family over 5 generations, from the beginning of the Italian nation in 1861 until the crumbling of Communism. This family from a tiny village in the boot-heel of Italy goes through the upheaval of loveless marriages, illness, death, bandits, poverty, blinding love, emigration, wars and modernization and through it all Venezia tells their stories with a slight touch of mysticism and fantasy. There is something deeper at work here in the relationships than pure love, hate or loyalty. She establishes this from the very beginning of the book, when the streets of the village run with olive oil - oil whose pots have been shattered by the screams of a woman in labor.
This is a beautiful story reminiscent of Gábriel García Marquez or Laura Esquivel, and is sure to please readers who remember listening to their own family sagas.

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