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- The Strange Grandma: Extract from 'The Romancer'.
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Saturday, 24 November 2012
A Story from Miss V About Italian Internment,
Feedback counts. We writers are needy people. We like to know that people read us and get us. This has always been so with my novels: every letter or note of appreciation warms my heartAnd response is equally significant with blogging and the world wide web. If someone takes the trouble to comment on the blog or email a response to a post I am very excited to know that someone somewhere has been touched by my notions.And now to my delight I have had wonderful verbal and email response to the Letters to Ilio from the Cafe de Luxe. Different people were touched in different ways by this post.
Sometimes people respond to a post by telling me their own story. This was the case with my London friend Miss V. (I didn't even know she read the blog...) Miss V comes from an artistic and theatrical family herself and is a wonderfully ironic storyteller. But I had never heard this story until she read that post and wrote to me:
I have just read your piece on the Italian cafe owners and the most interesting book you mention, both of which struck a cord with me. I will definitely buy it.
My former husband, Joe, had a musician Father who, like so many foreigners living in this county, was interned on the Isle of Wight during the War. Later he taught the cello at the Royal College of Music, but when he was young was a member of various dance bands which played in the fashionable night clubs of the day. One of his great stories, regaled in an almost unfathomable Italian accent-he spoke very bad English! was the time when the the ultra glamorous Prince of Wales asked him to play a certain tune, saying he would tip him later. He never did. `That man owed me money' he used to say !
Anyway, in the War there were loads of Italian musicians in the Camp, people who later became famous who all formed a huge orchestra. One imagines they were among the lucky ones who had something to do. Later he married a girl from his town in Northern Italy and moved to Dean Street, where Joe was born. He was their only child and Mama called him Pupo (baby) always !!
Later his parents divorced and Papa returned to Italy, Mother decamped to Tunbridge Wells. She died of cancer but Papa came to my wedding and I have a wonderful photo of him, in his 90's but still handsome and charming, talking to my Ma who fortunately spoke very good Italian.They were entranced by one another !
With much love
A great story
- it could inspire a great novel couldn't it?
And now it seems to have set off a chain of stories in my head. In searching the net for information about Italian internment I came across an interesting article by TANYA STARRETT telling the story of her grandfather Tomasso Pia. Fascinating stuff.All this convinces me that so many families have their own extraordinary stories of complex identity and citizenship. The novel is a great form to explore the ambiguities and contradictions embedded in such stories. Small Island by Andrea Leveyis a great example of this, I am not aware of a novel that springs out of these powerful stories of Italian internment in Britain. Let me know if you know of one.
I hope you enjoyed this post. As I said, feedback has its own delights.