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The House of Serenades
A brilliant portrait of the Italian upper class at the onset of the 20th century (and back in time to 1850) and a heartfelt denunciation of its repressive practices towards women.
In 1910 Genoa, an Italian port city of divided classes and ancient power struggles, the Berillis are wealthy, powerful, and respected—until the day their darkest secrets begin to surface. Once the police intervene and the gossip grapevine is set in motion, the Berillis’ demise is unavoidable. But love lives on, and there’s a mandolin player in town who is not giving up on the girl of his dreams. Never underestimate the power of music.
The House of Serenades is a brilliant portrait of the Italian upper class at the turn of the 20th century, its habits, its ways of life. At the same time, the story denounces the abuse and repression of women (sisters, daughters, wives) that were so frequent in those years.
MONTHS LATER, removed from the world, her frail, unnourished body ravaged by pellagra and scurvy, her mind muddled with visions of black devils and fire-spitting monsters, in rare moments of lucidity Eugenia Berilli would revisit the events that marked the end of her privileged life and the beginning of her and her family's fall to disgrace. Her memories would manifest in fragments, disconnected images and sounds, snapshots of a time gone by, flashes that struck her in the heart with the suddenness and the fury of lightning bolts. But on that mild mid-April morning of 1910 she, the taller and older sister of Giuseppe Berilli, Genoa's most prominent lawyer, had no reason to suspect or fear. She was henceforth surprised when she awoke in her canopy bed one full hour earlier than usual, drenched in cold sweat. As she eased her feet into padded slippers and wrapped her thin body in a dressing gown, she mulled over her early rising, attributing it to at least three factors: her advanced age, the humidity, and her anxiety over the future of the Berilli law firm, whose reputation had worsened ostensibly over the past weeks. She paced the bedroom back and forth while her discomfort grew. A vague uneasiness had taken hold of her, a throb in the pit of her belly rising all the way to her throat. Her armpits were wet, and the handkerchief she dabbed repeatedly on her forehead couldn't keep the watery beads at bay.