Title: The Green Silk Shawl Author: Marcella Maier Translator: Iris Hunter
Paperback, 228 pages, English, Perfect Publishers Ltd, 2018
14 x 21.6 x 1.3cm, 315g
18 black and white illustrations
The Green Silk Shawl is a translation of Marcella Maier’s Das grüne Seidentuch, which was first published in German in 2008 and has been reprinted many times. The Green Silk Shawl is the first translation into English.
The book is often described as a ‘Swiss family saga’. It is the moving chronicle of the harsh lives the women of Marcella’s family experienced in the Val Bregaglia and the Engadin over a period of roughly 200 years. We follow these strong women as they manage to raise their children with a lot of love and warmth under the most difficult circumstances. Family ties and long-lasting bonds between villagers, be they poor or wealthy, masters or servants, support everyone through misfortunes and sometimes even tragedies. Happy times are celebrated together.
At the start of the 19th century, in the Val Bregaglia in southern Switzerland, life is hard for the young widow Alma and her little daughter Lisabetta. When Lisabetta grows up, she does not want to live like her mother and so she moves to the Engadin, which has just been discovered by tourism. After a few happy years, however, she too is destined to care for her family on her own…
In this very real and touching family saga, Marcella Maier tells the story of her family over four generations.
The book touches on the following themes which the website aims to bring to life, much depending on readers’ interests
Regional history, for example memories of Napoleon’s army marching through the valley far below the village of Soglio. The two world wars in the 20th century affected the population only economically and everyone was grateful that their country had not been directly involved in the battles that were waged beyond the borders.
Local traditions like Chalandamarz (celebration of the end of winter)
Food is central to all Swiss life: cooking, with Birnbrot (‘pear bread’), Nusstorte (‘nutcake’) and Gerstensuppe (‘barley soup’) particular specialities, no doubt known to many readers
For the early generations, dried chestnuts were a staple, chestnut forests still cover a big area in the Val Bregaglia
The book is an important contribution to the history of tourism and industrialisation in the Alps, and we learn a lot about the development of an early health service and, in particular, about the introduction of the first professional midwife.
I hope that readers may want to contribute their own memories and to engage with issues raised in the book. Please feel free to email me on email@example.com if you want to take part. It will be lovely to hear from you.