The Demons of Aquilonia


a novel by Lina Medaglia

Print: 978-0-9808822-5-4
ePUB: 978-1-9267083-9-3
PDF: 978-1-77133-025-1
224 Pages
June 01, 2009

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Shortlisted For The 2010 Biennal F. G. Bressani Literary Prize

2009 Finalist Bressani Award for Literature

A mesmerizing novel of betrayal, loss, and multiple identities, this is the story of Licia Giganteschi, for whom it takes half a lifetime to go back home, to a place she loves and hates at the same time. Licia grows up in the beautiful wilderness of a mountain village in Calabria, Italy. Born of terroni (farmers) with aspirations for their children, she is raised by Grazia, an introverted mother, and Marco, a guest-worker in Germany. She spends her time between the Zimpoli farm of her revolutionary, eccentric grandfather, and the suffocating scrutiny of her father’s relatives in the village of Aquilonia.

When the call to immigrate to Canada comes, for Licia, it is a welcome call. But she could not have foreseen that the curse of the Giganteschis will follow the family to Toronto and beyond. When Licia finally returns home and retraces the steps of those who loved her and those who hurt her, she understands how her mother’s life, and her own life, are intertwined with the mysterious women who were her mother’s only friends: her uncle’s mistress, a nun in a cave, and a witch who delivers babies.

“Be prepared to be transported into the world of Southern Italy to the sleepy sun-drenched village of Aquilonia, a place rich in lies, betrayal, secrets, and family tradition. With an engaging voice and a flair for dialogue, Lina Medaglia creates characters and stories, layer after layer that engage and disturb. In the style of Nino Ricci, she paints a vivid portrait of an Italian village and its villagers that you will not forget. A wonderful read by an appealing storyteller.”
—Maria Coletta McLean, author of My Father Came From Italy

“The strong narrative flow and exquisite use of poetic and lyrical language draw the reader into the vibrant folds of this auto/biographical fiction, creating compassionate connections with the characters that often took my breath away, made my heart stop. The novel reminds readers of the complexity of the human condition, of the necessity of challenging the patriarchal and political status quo, and of the complex challenges that originate for women of first- and second-generation immigrant families, and even subsequent ones, from their birth places.”
—Erika Hasebe-Ludt, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge, co-author of Life Writing and Literary Métissage as an Ethos for Our Times

“The life and family of Licia Giganteschi make for a complex and alluring story of love and hate, fate and courage. Family intrigue festers for generations below the surface of an Italian village and seems inescapable even in Toronto; that is, until Licia can finally conquer the demons by finding the truth.”
—Maria Cioni, author of Spaghetti Western: How My Father Brought Italian Food to the West

The Demons of Aquilonia

Lina Medaglia was born and raised, until the age of eleven, in Italy. Her family immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1966. With her partner, she has written a number of musical projects including a three-hour modern opera entitled Casanova, a cd of progressive/political country music entitled Bald Eagle, and a cd of political rock entitled Dreamland and Other Conspiracies. She is also a poet, and has read her poetry at Toronto festivals, including Nuit Blanche. Lina Medaglia teaches, writes, and lives in downtown Toronto with her family. The Demons of Aquilonia is her first novel.

1 review for The Demons of Aquilonia

  1. InannaWebmaster

    Herizons Magazine Vol. 23 No.4 – Spring 2010
    Reviewed by Maya Khankhoje

    “This first-person novel is the story of Licia Giganteschi, an Italian-born Canadian woman who, after 40 years, returns to the village she both loved and hated. It is also the story of post-war Italian immigration in Canada. Some migrants left for economic reasons; others left in order to put an ocean of distance between a painful past and a new life in a new country.

    Both reasons propelled Licia to Canada, where an easier economic life did not necessarily translate into greater peace of mind. That is why she returned to her birth-place to ask difficult questions and to confront and expose the answers.

    The Demons of Aquiloniais a very complex novel, both in terms of its timeline and its geographic setting. Its colourful characters jump back and forth from one scenario to another in the present, the recent past and the remote past. Yet there is no room for confusion, as the chapters are clearly dated and the voices are firmly anchored in history and geography.

    The story that begins to unfold is multilayered and rich in mood and intent, leading to an astonishing and surprising denouement. This strong narrative is achieved by the skilful use of dialect and by a clean and lyrical narrator’s voice.

    In fact, when we read Licia’s (or is it Lina Medaglia’s?) description of her native village, we sense that this image of Aquilonia, by itself, could be worth the whole book: “Aquilonia is a place of great and terrible beauty, a place like hundreds of other places in Calabria….” This limpid description of landscape carries within it forebodings of impending doom lurking behind every craggy rock. Medaglia etches a rich picture in chiaroscuro, with light touches of humour as relief from

    “‘Alarico, what’s a donnaccia?’ Licia the child asks.
    ‘A bad woman, I think.’
    ‘What do you have to do to be a bad woman?’
    ‘Act like you’re a man,’ he says.”

    Lina Medaglia herself chose to act like a woman by slaying the twin demons of misogyny and hypocrisy with her bare pen.”

    Maya Khankhoje migrated from Mexico to India on an Italian cargo boat where she picked up the language.

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