This was a venture into non-fiction. It is a beautifully written account of the history of lemon cultivation in Italy. Attlee’s writing is very evocative, and on the way we learnt a certain amount of Italian history as well as a lot about citrus fruit. The first surprise was the huge number of cultivars – 4,000 grown from 3 original varieties – the citron, the mandarin and pomelo. Citrus cultivation is very dependent on environmental factors with many prized varieties needing cosseting, and some requiring very special soil conditions. As well as looking at the history Attlee touches on art and talks to current day growers about their business and trees and includes some recipes. The most gripping chapters were those on the pivotal role lemons played in the birth and growth of the mafia in Scilly, and the fascinating account of how to grow the perfect etrog required for the celebration of the Jewish festival of Sukkot.
The book was a light read that swept one along – our main gripe was that it seemed to jump around a lot, and a times seemed repetitive. The time line provided at the end of the book was a great help in realising just how much had been touched on and the order of events.