Mandolin Cafe alerted us to a new work of fiction that will tweak the imaginations of anyone whose ears spark to the sound of the mandolin.
The book is A Mandolin of Gold, written by Michael Tedesco. It tells the story of Ernesto DiLentini, a classical mandolin virtuoso, who recalls his life at the age of 95, tracing from his native Sicily to his current home in New York.
The author’s overview gives a nice tease…
Born in 1895 Sicily, Ernesto, an extraordinary child prodigy, is soon christened “a little Mozart.” Perhaps a rock star before there was Rock, Ernesto lives in an era when the mandolin, that “fashionable upstart cousin of the violin,” is the most rebellious instrument of the day. At 17, he runs away with a 34-member Neapolitan mandolin orchestra. The young firebrand, who often played mandolin while galloping on horseback through his father’s orchards, now performs on grand stages and upper class salons throughout Italy and Europe. During the next two years, he falls in love, socializes with rowdy Futurists, and disdainfully makes records for the early Victrola. Ernesto recklessly achieves more success than he ever thought possible until the discovery of his affair with a married woman and the urgent need to escape her revolver-carrying husband set him on a merchant steamer sailing for La’Merica.
Ernesto is robbed and coerced to abandon ship within sight of Coney Island. He arrives on New York’s shore without a passport, disguised in women’s clothes, yet still carrying his beloved mandolin of gold. After a modest beginning playing in the local Italian community’s cafes and silent-film theaters, he finds himself on the lucrative, nationwide Vaudeville circuit.
It should have been a long successful career reaching far beyond the heyday of Coney Island’s Luna Park, World War One, Prohibition, and Vaudeville. Instead, Ernesto’s story becomes the turbulent and bittersweet portrait of a virtuoso career cut short, an enduring love for three heartbreaking sisters, and a dangerous association with an ominous man known only as il Lupo.
Need a gift for a mandolin lover on your list? Find all the details on the author’s web site.