Based on the life of the author’s great-grandfather, The Leopard tells of proud Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina (in Sicily), during the time of the Risorgimento, or the movement for unification in the 1860s. A man of great appetites, Fabrizio moves through a time where he is the head of his family and a natural leader of the Sicilian people. The chapters of this delightful novel each take place during a specified time period—the first four cover 1860 and the last four cover the next 20 years. The events of the book tell the story of a changing Sicily. Fabrizio knows not only that he’s an aging Prince, but also that he represents a dying era.
Written over the course of 25 years and only published after death, di Lampedusa understands the delicacies of human conversation. He also gets at the heart of man, proud by nature yet one who appreciates the subleties of life. Packed with details of late 19th century Italian life, The Leopard paints a wistful portrait of family whose fortune change even while they try to maintain the status quo. A delicious read, I found di Lampedusa’s novel difficult to put down.