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Review: The Village Sang to the Sea – A Memoir of Magic / Author: Bruce McAllister / Publisher: Aeon Press / Release Date: Out Now

When he and his parents move to a small fishing village in Italy in the 1960s, naïve American teenager Brad Lattimer suddenly finds himself plunged into an intoxicating and occasionally dangerous world of heat and strangeness. This is a place where little green lizards seem to talk back to you, where women who may or may not be witches lurk in woodland cottages, where a lady who may or may not be a ghost patrols an abandoned hospital, and a girl who may or may not be haunted by the spirit of the dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley spells out his poems with shells on the sands of a remote cove.

The Village Sang to the Sea is a charming book somewhere between Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and a supernatural My Family and Other Animals. Like Dandelion Wine, it's essentially a collection of short stories linked by a shared central character and a number of connecting passages. The mood is nostalgic, gently humorous, sun-dazzled, a celebration of childhood's sense of wonder and a wistful remembrance of a paradise lost. Externally, not a great deal happens: much of it is about the inner workings of Brad's mind as he becomes overloaded with sensory impressions. For the reader, too, it's all quite heady and overwhelming – the sights, smells, lore and language of this vanished place rise pungently off the page thanks to Bruce McAllister's vivid and intense prose. A delicate fantasy that leaves a lasting impression.

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