The most moving debut novel of the year, shortlisted for the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Homestead is simply one of the most beautifully written and moving books it’s been our privilege to publish in years. It is also perfectly constituted to be a word-of-mouth bestseller (and its fate in the US bears this out; from very small beginnings at an obscure press in 1998, that is what is has gone to become, picking up the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Prize on its way to regional bestsellerdom in paperback).
Its focus is on the women of a remote Alpine village, where life revolves around farming – and more particularly, around milk and cheese – in a way it has done for generations. Though the sense of place is acute in the book, equally the experiences and emotions of the women at the heart of it are timeless. This community of a few hundred souls, where everyone not only knows but is related to everyone else, is, of course, the kind of environment that is fast disappearing in Europe – reminiscent of remote sheep-farming communities in mid-Wales or the Cumbrian hills or the Scottish highlands. This self-contained, traditional world is evoked with tenderness but without sentimentality or blinkers. The real world creeps up the mountain to the village all too often – for example, carrying off its menfolk to war, and blighting the women with more work still, and less aid. The book spans more or less the entire twentieth century, and puts at the heart of each chapter a different woman. The casual brilliance of Lippi’s storytelling can be devastating; the reader passes by a seemingly innocuous sentence, only to turn back and see blood and fire everywhere in it.
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The setting for this poignant novel is Rosenau, an isolated Austrian village, and the story encompasses generations of villagers and their intimate lives. The magic of the novel lies in the author's ability to make the faraway seem familiar, even when it is tragic or brutal. Structured as short stories told from the viewpoints of different members of the village, the novel follows their intertwined lives from 1909 through 1977, layering story upon story to develop the village and the characters.
Lippi's characters are nothing short of wonderful. There is, for example, Johanna, whose heart is torn between her love for Francesco--a soldier hiding in the Austrian Alps--and her sister Angelika, who hides her dependence upon Johanna behind not-so-subtle reminders of familial duty. And there is Katharina, whose impulsiveness causes her to betray her two half-brothers for a ride in a Nazi motorcar, and Stante, who proves his worth not only in the Wainwright's workshop but also by his courage withstanding the Nazis. The character portrayals are based upon Lippi's own experiences of living in Austria for four years. You will hate for these stories to end.Review:
'The 12 linked stories of Homestead, set in the fictional village of Rosenau, get immediately under the skin and pack as much punch as 12 novels, diving into the characters' most wrenching moments…Lippi's language is as direct and elemental as the world it describes. What is extraordinary is the way it so factually evokes the wistfulness, inner corrosion, or immense tenderness of lives that are both circumscribed and rich, mundane, but over the long haul, deep in drama…You begin to feel that you yourself are one of the people of Rosenau.' The Observer
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Book Description FLAMINGO, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7105797