Publisher: Silvertail Books
Format: Ebook & Paperback (28 September 2023)
Apennine Mountains, Italy, 1965
Leonora Bacchetti was once a happy child. But at the age of seventeen she has become a wild and rebellious young woman who leaves her parents in despair when she runs away from home with a group of itinerant travellers. In the eyes of their friends and neighbours in the tight-knit village of Montacciolo, her parents’ good name is ruined.
At first, Leonora keeps in touch with her mother and father, sending letters and postcards from different countries until, very abruptly, her correspondence stops. The girl has vanished. Vague, unreliable rumours of her fate abound, but newspaper appeals, police and private investigations reveal nothing.
Until, eighteen years later, in the midst of a snowstorm, a stranger from Sardinia knocks on the door of Leonora’s father’s little mountain house. Now a widower, he has come to terms with never knowing what happened to his daughter. But everything changes when the unexpected visitor claims that he has new information. The two men quickly bond and gradually begin to piece together the truth about Lenora, provoking deep questions about her life and how they have lived their own – questions about love, loyalty, honesty and what being a family really means.
The Sardinian Story is a novel of exquisite power and deep emotion which will live long in the memories of its readers.
My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation. As part of the blog tour today, I am pleased to share this extract of The Sardinian Story.
This extract is taken from Chapter 1. Dante Bacchetti, an old man, has let into his mountain home a stranger who says he has information about Dante’s long lost daughter. The stranger, Jubanne, is being questioned because Dante has received many letters previously from people claiming to know things about his daughter but which turned out to be worthless.
‘I told you that I knew where your daughter went after she disappeared.’
Dante stroked his long beard and tilted his head to one side.
‘I will have to ask you to be more specific. You see, many people have written to me over the years claiming to know my daughter’s last known movements, and with theories concerning her disappearance and her supposed death. I also receive accusations, confessions and reported sightings of both a mortal and ghostly nature.’
Dante went to the far end of the room, where the wall was shelved from floor to ceiling and crammed with neatly-stacked document boxes.
‘See here? This is where I file everything concerning Leonora. Assuming your letter reached me, it will be archived here somewhere. Under which category would you say that your correspondence falls?’
Jubanne Melis Puddu surveyed the wall of paperwork, looking baffled.
‘I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘What are the options?’
‘On the top shelf are the confessions, divided into two categories – Credible and Questionable. Only one box for Credible, and there’s never been much in there. Six boxes for Questionable. Originally I had begun to file them chronologically, but trying to sort them like that is tricky. Not everybody who chooses to correspond with me is too punctilious about details such as dates. They’re more concerned with the gory and salacious aspects of how Leonora supposedly met her fate. Nevertheless, it never ceases to surprise me how many men are willing to confess to a murder that they clearly haven’t committed, or which may not have been committed at all. Claims of culpability used to be very frequent. Fewer now that so much time has passed since Leonora disappeared, but I hold onto them all, just in case.’
Now even more astonished, Jubanne Melis Puddu asked, ‘How many men have confessed?’
‘To date, twenty-two. And it would seem that not one of them is guilty. There is just one claim in the Credible box, which I placed in there more out of hope than certainty, but it was disproven some time ago. It’s only still in there because I haven’t had the wherewithal to move it. Getting up to that top shelf is problematic for me. I have to stand on a chair and my balance isn’t what it used to be-’ and then, with a look of sudden realisation, as though something had just dawned on him, Dante asked, ‘Would you mind getting that box for me? A fellow of your size can reach without even standing on his tiptoes.’
Jubanne Melis Puddu rose to his feet and joined Dante.
‘Far left. And if you could also grab the third one along from it, I’ll move the contents into that one.’
The big man did as he was asked and Dante re-arranged the files, muttering, ‘That’s better. It’s been bothering me.’
‘But why would people confess to something they hadn’t done?’
Dante shrugged, ‘Leonora’s disappearance was a high profile case. I suppose that some people just wanted to be part of the circus, to have a few moments of fame, or notoriety. I assume you saw all the reports in the newspapers?’
‘I saw some.’
‘There was a time when you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading some new piece of speculation. Even the foreign press reported Leonora’s disappearance and her supposed murder.’
Francesca Scanacapra was born in Italy to an English mother and Italian father, and her childhood was spent living between England and Italy. Her adult life has been somewhat nomadic with periods spent living in Italy, England, France, Senegal and Spain. She describes herself as ‘unconventional’ and has pursued an eclectic mixture of career paths – from working in translation, the fitness industry, education and even several years as a builder. In 2021 she returned to her native country and back to her earliest roots to pursue her writing career full time. Francesca now resides permanently in rural Lombardy in the house built by her great-grandfather which was the inspiration for her Paradiso Novels: Paradiso, Return to Paradiso and The Daughter of Paradiso. Her novel The Lost Boy of Bologna was also published by Silvertail Books.