The Cantoni Sisters – An Italian Setting

'Tuscany' - oil on canvas by A.K.Andrew

‘Tuscany’ – oil on canvas by A.K. Andrew


I’ve been to Northern Italy many times and love the beauty of the lush countryside as much as ancient crumbling buildings that sit side by side with Italian modernity. The language is full of life and the  Italians I’ve met have been open and friendly: a real pleasure to find.

The food is often simple, but exquisite. This is merely a reflection of its ingredients. The Slow Food Movement has done much to promote regional cuisine and traditional methods. But that aside, if I go to an Italian market or a local delicatessen, what I’ve found is far superior to anything I’ve tasted elsewhere.

The Cantoni Sisters

Before I started writing “The Cantoni Sisters”, I knew little about Fascist Italy either before or during WWII. I knew even less about Italian Jews. As a teenager I’d watched the gritty “Rome: Open City” by Roberto Rossellini, but that was the extent of my exposure to any reality of what life was like in wartime Italy.

Though I grew up well after WWII, the era was a force that loomed in the background for its horrors, while being romanticized for the immediacy of life and death; living life to it’s full ”for tomorrow we may die”.  Who hasn’t cried while watching “Casablanca”, and knows that “we’ll always have Paris”? The sentiment was as attractive as it was heartbreaking.

I’d already decided to locate part of the novel in Tuscany, but it was only when I was researching the Resistance in the tiny two room library of a hill town near Lucca, that I came across the names of the local Jews who had died in WWII. It was an intimate finding that personalized their plight for me and immediately knew that was the story I needed to write.

The Cantoni Sisters does not pretend to cover what happened to all Italian Jews during WWII. It is the story of one young woman.