I read “The Song of the Cypress” after getting a copy via Rosie’s Book Review Team. Here is my review…
“It's hard to even begin to explain what I thought of "The Song of the Cypress". This novel is so unique and beautifully written that I feel inept at writing down my own views about it.
Ultimately, the story is about the self-discovery of Ann (or Annie). A woman who needs to find herself as a person, spiritual soul, lover and member of a community. Until she dreams of the "Cypress" her life has been depressed. Following the needs of her mother, she has no time for herself. When her mother dies, she finally gets the freedom she desires and leaves everything she has in England to start a new life in a remote cottage set on the mountains in Italy.
Once here, she explores her spiritual side through an eccentric old woman, or local "witch", who guides her in finding out about a connection with the Cypress tree that spans many centuries. The ability of the spirit or soul in this book is interesting and it beckons us (the reader) to seek out our true instinct as human beings and the role we have play with nature.
Her relationship with Joe is interesting and cleverly done, although it did have a ring of perfection that at times felt unbelievable. Every relationship has some trauma. This had barely any. Annie also seems too content in her own skin towards the end. It certainly is something for us all to strive towards.
Without giving any more away, this is a book you can taste (I got hungers pangs from some of the descriptions), smell, feel and almost touch.
My own upbringing in Gibraltar came to mind as the author described the traditions and mannerisms of Italians. My distant relatives were of mixed origin, but many descendants of Gibraltar come from Genoa. We definitely like our food!
I have rated it a 4 because as much as I loved it at times the pace slowed too much for me and I needed more than excellent descriptive writing. But, this is a personal preference.
I highly recommend this and think it should be studied as part of an English course on how to write creatively. I certainly don't think I could ever achieve this level!”
What do you think of my review?
I was very pleased to have this honest review. I was surprised and flattered by your praise and also understand some of your doubts and am glad to have the opportunity here to explain a few things. My intentions do not really matter, as each reader has to get what they feel from a book, but here are my explanations.
Joe - yes, he could be seen as a bit too perfect. However, I wanted someone solid and at home in his own skin, to counterbalance Annie. Joe knows what he wants and has the patience to wait until Annie is ready for life and love. In my head he was the sturdy oak, the gateway to another realm and she the cypress, constantly reaching for the ethereal sky.
I did not base Annie on me but can say that my own spiritual journey has led to me now being very content in my own skin. I tried to make Annie have this awareness and peace as she moved ahead in the book. There will always be moments of stress and upheaval in our lives but if we learn to really know ourselves, shadow side and all, they become easier to deal with.
Finally, the pace of the book, which at times you found a little slow. I tried hard to follow the rhythms of nature within the book and it is certainly not a tale of adventure but of a gentle unfolding of life, love and deep universal connection.
Thank you again for your words.
I certainly felt this way in reading it. It was a journey, beautifully written at that. What inspired you to write this story?
Walking in my Tuscan hills, seeing new life unfurling in the woods in spring, while the ancient cypresses remain unchanged season after season, made me want to capture the beauty in words.
I had written about seven chapters but was unhappy with it when we went away for the summer months on our sailing boat. There, far away from my valley, as I sat mesmerised by the ever-changing waves, I realised that what was missing was the sense of magic I feel when walking there, as if connected to the universe in some strong way. That is how the character of the cypress came into being. The cypress is an ancient spirit that can dream through centuries or concentrate on the intimacy of a second and through its wise council my main characters can gain access to that spiritual dimension we all dream of attaining.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to publish your book? What was the editorial process like?
I decided to self-publish "The Song of the Cypress" because trying to find a UK publisher while living here was not easy. I was lucky to find the lovely Sunpenny Publishing House for my second book, "A Whisper on the Mediterranean", which is a true tale of our family sailing adventures when our son was a small baby. It is a funny book, full of beautiful places to visit and has easy recipes at the end of each chapter. Believe me, if I could make these dishes on a constantly moving boat, anyone can!
A great friend of mine, Valerie Poore, is also with Sunpenny – what a small world!
The process for each book was very different and each had pros and cons. With Sunpenny I had the benefit of a proper editor to sharpen my text and bring it all together well, whereas with this novel I relied on the help of friends, who did a wonderful job but maybe with a different editor I would have ironed out some of the things that did not work for you, Vanessa.
The easy part is writing. Editing is hard because it is not a simple thing to have the proper detachment needed. I wait until months have passed and I am not so emotionally involved before beginning to edit and need to print off pages and read them instead of using the computer or I miss lots of mistakes.
I know all about the editing process! I agree on walking away for a while. Best advice is to forget it for a while.
Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time?
It is very important if one wants to become known. I am a real dinosaur when it comes to technology. I have a mobile phone but turn it on maybe once a week! I have really struggled with this aspect of being a writer but have now managed to set up a website, a Facebook page and am beginning to tweet along merrily, even if it seems a bit potty to me. I try to do all my social media stuff when I wake up, with my second coffee in hand, because my husband is usually still in bed then and I can concentrate better. When I get stuck or have a technical question I have to wait for him to wake up and come rescue me!
Ha ha… my husband is clueless when it comes to technology! I had to work it out for myself – I am a computer geek really J
Do you have a favourite author or genre? Did anyone inspire you to start writing?
Oh, I have so many! How can I give you a favourite? I am an eclectic reader and have been since a child. I love poetry and certain lines stay with me while doing the house work, like song tunes do. Sometimes they then trigger off something that I want to write about in my own way.
I love books with a hint of what Joanne Harris calls "everyday magic" and I really love her books.
I also enjoy a good murder, adventure stories and even science fiction as well as literary fiction. I remember reading "My Sweet Orange Tree", by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, one Christmas morning when I was quite young. It was in my stocking and I always woke early to open that. I started reading and could not stop. I cried my eyes out and my parents were worried that they had chosen the wrong sort of book until, through my tears, I managed to tell them it was the most beautiful thing I had ever read.
Personally, I loved your description of Italy and the food. Can you tell us your favourite places there, and why?
Well, my valley of course, the Valdarno, with its pretty hill villages and wild countryside full of olives and cypresses. It is not as well-known as the Chianti area but for me is far more beautiful. I prefer wild nature to perfectly groomed hills.
I also love the Mediterranean islands that we sail around each summer, in particular Ponza. When you approach Ponza by sea on a spring morning the scent of yellow broom wafts down from the cliffs and Ponza harbour looks like a rainbow with its multicoloured houses rambling up the hillside.
Can you name an Italian dish that you love and another you hate?
Dishes that I like are easy because there are so many. The fresh vegetables used for each seasonal dish are amazing. Right now the asparagus is beginning and last week I bought a slender stemmed bunch and made pasta with asparagus and bacon.
An unusual dish which is being eaten right now that your readers may not have heard of is fave with pecorino.
This is perfect picnic food. Fave are small, tender, broad beans which are served in their pods. You break them open, pop out the beans and eat them with fresh pecorino - wonderful.
I used to peal these with my grandmother when I was growing up... I love them!
What do I dislike? A Roman dish called pagliata, is made from the intestines of an unweaned calf and I cannot bring myself to think about it!
Ahhh.. this does NOT sound (or look) good at all! I have a feeling my parents have eaten this. Sounds like tripe? I tried it once - and did not like it!
I am feeling ill now...
In Gibraltar, we have a lot of Italian descendants. Might explain why the food is so familiar to me. My mother's maiden name is Olivero.
Where we can find out more about you and buy your books?
You can have a look at my website, www.toniaparronchi.com , for more information. I also write a blog, Tonia Parronchi at Wordpress and am on Facebook. I really love to hear from my readers and make sure to reply to any messages I get as soon as I can.
The best places to buy my books are through Amazon or the Book Depository which has free delivery worldwide. Your local book shop will be able to order the books for you if they are not in stock.
Anything else you want to share with us?
I have just finished a new novel called "The Melting of Miss Angelina Snow" which I hope will make my readers laugh as much as I did while writing it.
Frosty estate agent, the formidable Miss Angelina Snow, has no time for romance or other such frivolities or so she believes, until her well-ordered life is turned upside down by a very troublesome client, Leonardo Marconi.
This book is set in England but with a very Italian hero and I am hoping it will be published this year. Sounds exciting! Best of luck with it.
Now I am thinking about a new story. At the moment it is a jumble of ideas dotted on post-it notes and in notebooks but it is slowly taking shape and will be more similar to my first novel in so far as it will be a literary novel. I am fascinated by our relationship with water and want to explore that realm with all its mysterious charm. A tentative title would be "Mermaids Breathing".