Holiday reading is one of the luxuries of life but many, like myself, only think of what book to take with them after they've gone through passport control at Departures. The choice of books at the airport branch of WHSmith is hardly that comprehensive. This time round, plan a little early and choose the book that will enhance your experience of your destination. Here are three books not many have heard of (in relation to Malta) and which can give us a further insight into the island of Malta.
“I once sat on those steps and traced with small fingers a cross, etched by some mason to bear witness not only to his craft and his faith, but to his existence. I too required a testimonial and engraved a trifling initial under the cross of St John.”
You know how you can never be sure whether your recollections of childhood are real or simply stories which you’ve made your own. With Rosanne Dingli's collection of thirteen stories you’ll need to figure out yourself which are based on her past, folkloric or family anecdotes or just figments of her imagination. Some will find Dingli’s writing lacking proper narrative and plot but if it’s her Malta that you’re interested in, her beautifully descriptive prose brings the island to life and you’ll recognise it instantly.
The Romantic Novel
Why Joanna Trollope wrote this book under a different name is anyone’s guess. This is a light romantic novel, ideal as holiday fodder, however we’re more interested in its portrayal of the island. Set in the early 1900s, the story follows a 21 year old British woman who’s hopeless economic situation forces her to move to Malta. It’s as much about finding herself as getting familiar with her new surroundings. War comes along but this doesn’t keep her from looking for love. Part of the protagonist’s journey includes getting familiar with her Maltese neighbours. I’d be particularly interested to know whether Joanna’s portrayal is based on actual visits to the island.
Not so pretty a picture
Joe Sacco's unique genre of journalism through his graphic novels brings us closer to people's stories. My brother says that he's sure Joe and I met once at one of my brother's band rehearsal. I don't particularly remember Joe - his ability to disappear in a crowd is probably a sign of a good journalist, always listening and never being too conspicuous. You see, Joe was born in Malta in 1960, but didn't stay long. His family left for Australia when he was one and Los Angelis when he was twelve.
One of the stories in Journalism called The Unwanted features the Maltese islands, but the real protagonists are the African migrants travelling the Mediterranean. The story does however deal with the racism inherent within Maltese society. Joe paints a rather bleak portrait of the Maltese and compares the modern story of refugees to that of St Paul's shipwreck on the island 2000 years ago.