‘What can I tell you about my young life on the island?’ asks Giulia, the first narrator of Strangers at the Port. Not much, she claims, but we learn that this unnamed Sicilian island was once the ‘richest’ and ‘greenest’, that she lived there with only her mother and sister, and that her life was dream-like – that is, until the land ‘became unrecognisable’ and turned ‘chalky white’. The time period is left vague and from the beginning, Giulia confesses the unreliability of her account: her memories are ‘shrouded in the mystery of childhood’. This is a novel about the ways one can remember and evoke a place that has been lost.
Why the island became uninhabitable is unclear. The ‘Professor’ whom Giulia addresses believes it was due to an ‘insect pest’, but Giulia is unsure: ‘There is no mention of the shipmaster in your book … There is nothing about the men who arrived on our island in the