This is the story of a newly married couple and the year they spent in Sicily. Packed with history, culture - and plenty of misadventure - it will definitely make you laugh. It also has as much romance as an ordinary Aussie bloke can muster, and, of course, a little bit of Mafia action.
'Gill and I had dreamt of living in Italy for as long as we'd been together.'
This is the story of an Aussie couple who sought a Mediterranean sea change only to find themselves in the sprawling Sicilian city of Catania - the 'anti-Tuscany' of Italy. There, any romantic visions they'd had of restoring a villa or stamping their entwined feet in vats of Chianti grapes disappeared faster than the chief witness in a Cosa Nostra trial.
Shamus and Gill's tiny apartment in Catania was located in a grim neighbourhood opposite a triple-X cinema and a shop selling coffins, nearby Mount Etna erupted soon after their arrival, a mystery ailment left Shamus in a neck brace, they crashed a Vespa and had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso.
This, then, is an Italian sea change with grit. But it's also a story of optimism, endurance and acceptance, an exploration of the minutiae of Sicilian culture, history, food and religion, and an example of how to find beauty - and humour - in the most unexpected of places.
Shamus Sillar earned a PhD in Roman History from the University of Queensland and went on to teach Classics in China. At the age of 29, he left university to travel and write. After his year in Italy with his wife, Shamus worked as the managing editor of two lifestyle magazine groups, first in Shanghai and now in Singapore. Shamus has been published by the likes of National Geographic and Conde Nast.
Sicily, It's Not Quite Tuscany is his first book.
Allen & Unwin
Paperback - B format