A dance party was held in a rural village near Milan, Italy. One couple of dancers weaving elegant yet sensual steps draws everyones attention. The man had been a priest in a nearby Catholic church until a few years ago. He danced a waltz in a village festival by chance, and tendered his resignation to the church the very next day. He is now a dance star who mesmerizes his audiences.
Through her essay "Casa di Gino", Japanese author Yoko Uchida has vividly portrayed the everyday lives and her bonds with the locals she experienced during her 30-some years of living in Italy. The way people live is similar everywhere in the world. The way she perceives them has affection. She believes the priest-turned-dancer is still helping and saving people.
With characteristic curiosity, she heard about a crime district in Milan from a police officer she met in a tavern and went to cover the district. The episodes, at times pleasant, at times heavy, such as a ruckus trying to find a dog a friend lost, a man who finally got a yacht, which was his long-cherished dream but died before completing work on it, congregate to make a colorful mosaic.
It is appealing that this book does not paint an idyllic fantasy of life in Italy. On the contrary, it feels akin to meeting an Italy like a woman without her makeup on. This book won the 59th Japan essayist/club prize and the 27th Kodansha essay award. "Sicily Milan Sun and Moon" her second essay on Italy, provides updates on many of the figures in the previous book, a welcome touch.