Book review: The Stonecutter’s Memoirs by Margaret Stenhouse

The Stonecutter's Memoirs by Margaret Stenhouse 

 History, in Italy, is a tangible entity, visibly present throughout the centuries in monuments, ruins and works of art, but the general public’s knowledge of the passing centuries is mostly tied to the famous and oft visited, or to the chronicles of the better known ruling classes. What Stenhouse has done is take a little known ruin, the Ruspoli Castle of Nemi, and via its history, encapsulate a good portion of the recent Italian past, weaving a story based on fact and peopled with characters that embody Italian village life to this day. With great attention to detail and effective descriptive prose she succeeds in immersing the reader in the scents, sounds and views of the place to the extent that the characters come alive and allow the reader to fully experience life over time and in a place few are acquainted with. You start this book interested in the history it recounts and end up so connected to the characters and their lives that when it’s over they stay in your thoughts, their dramas and rivalries and loves intrinsically tied to a place and a time in history that have come vividly to life.