A Time of Angels: A Novel

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Harper Collins, Nov 23, 2004 - Fiction - 223 pages
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When Primo Verona's wife, Beatrice, left him for Pasquale Benvenuto, their close friend who ran the delicatessen on the corner of Long and Bloem Streets, Primo cast a spell on Pasquale's shoes so that ever afterwards their laces would spring undone as he walked out of his front door. It was an easy enough spell to sidestep. Pasquale, unaware that it was magic he was dealing with, merely cursed the quality of modern laces and thereafter wore shoes that did not need them.

Primo Verona, a professional magician and soothsayer, is born with a gift of clairvoyance so strong that he is able to predict his own mother's death while still in her womb. He is brought up on a rich diet of astronomy, philosophy and storytelling by his watchmaker father and widowed aunt, both survivors of the death camps in Auschwitz. Primo accurately reads the futures of the local Long Street community of Italians and Jews, who pay him in wads of money, honey cake, tiramisu and other delicacies.

Pasquale Benvenuto, his close friend since childhood and fellow soldier in the Angolan war, is the owner of a bar and delicatessen favored by local businessmen and gamblers alike. Pasquale is passionate and headstrong, his culinary reputation resting on the recipes for the fruited breads and salamis his father taught him to make -- a love of which he acquired while hiding from the horrors of the Holocaust.

Together Primo and Pasquale form an easy friendship triangle with the beautiful Beatrice, Primo's wife and Pasquale's former girlfriend, but when she leaves her husband for her old love, Primo is devastated. He casts spells to spoil Pasquale's creations and to win back Beatrice, but he inadvertently conjures up an unexpected visitor.

Patricia Schonstein delivers a dazzling and evocative novel that mixes magical realism with the big themes -- war, love, death, betrayal and the afterlife -- to entertaining effect. A Time of Angels is spellbinding storytelling that no reader will soon forget.


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A time of angels

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Soothsayer Primo Verona's life unravels when his wife leaves him for his best friend, Pasquale Benvenuto, maker of the best salamis and baker of the most succulent fruited breads in all of Capetown ... Read full review


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About the author (2004)

Patricia Schonstein is the author of the novels The Apothecary's Daughter and Skyline, which won the Percy FitzPatrick Prize in 2002 and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. She has a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Cape Town. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Schonstein now lives in South Africa.

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