Primo Verona, a professional magician and soothsayer, is born with a gift of clairvoyance so strong that he is able to predict his own mother's death while still in her womb. He is brought up on a rich diet of astronomy, philosophy and storytelling by his watchmaker father and widowed aunt, both survivors of the death camps in Auschwitz. Primo accurately reads the futures of the local Long Street community of Italians and Jews, who pay him in wads of money, honey cake, tiramisu and other delicacies. Pasquale Benvenuto, his close friend since childhood and fellow soldier in the Angolan war, is the owner of a bar and delicatessen favoured by local businessmen and gamblers alike. Pasquale is passionate and headstrong, his culinary reputation resting on the recipes for the fruited breads and salamis his father taught him to make - a love of which he acquired while hiding from the horrors of the Holocaust. Together Primo and Pasquale form an easy friendship triangle with the beautiful Beatrice, Primo's wife and Pasquale's former girlfriend, but when she leaves her husband for her old love, Primo is thrown into despair. He casts spells to spoil Pasquale's creations and to win back Beatrice, but inadvertently conjures up an unexpected visitor.
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PATRICIA SCHONSTEIN grew up in Zimbabwe and now lives in South Africa. Her first novel SKYLINE won the Percy FitzPatrick Prize 2002, was long-listed for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2002 and came second in the South African SUNDAY TIMES Literary Award for Fiction 2001. Her second novel was A TIME OF ANGELS. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town.From Publishers Weekly:
A colorful expatriate neighborhood of Italian Jews in post-apartheid Capetown is the setting for this charming if familiar novel of food, love and magic. Flamboyant Pasquale, a gifted baker and sausage maker, and Primo, a modest soothsayer, have been best friends since childhood. Even Primo's marriage to their other childhood friend (and Pasquale's lover), the beautiful Beatrice, doesn't pull them apart. But as the novel opens, Beatrice, after 20 years of marriage, has succumbed to Pasquale's entreaties and left her husband. Heartbroken, Primo lashes out with a halfhearted curse or two before lapsing into depression. His curses play out to spoil Pasquale's much-loved cooking and summon the Devil (surprise: he's a benign, beautiful angel). In addition to the love triangle, the novel reveals the histories of Pasquale's and Primo's families and the lives and loves of other neighborhood residents—Pasquale's sister, the brothel owner; her rival, the seamstress; the seamstress's lovers; the tattoo artist; the plastic surgeon; the venerated, poker-playing local doctor. While many sweet details of community life and a meticulous, respectful attention to the skills of all trades brighten the novel, the themes and language are familiar; the conclusion brings together many elements of the characters' fates but fails to imbue them with meaning. Still, those who prefer their world literature with a light touch will likely find much to enjoy.
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