The Museum ‘Il-Hagar – Heart of Gozo’ was the venue on Friday 26th May of the official launching the novel by George Gauci entitled ‘The Cross’. A large audience, including HE Mr Anton Tabone, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Acting President of the Republic, attended. Mgr Joseph Farrugia, the Museum co-ordinator introduced the evening. He was followed by Mr George Camilleri, who delivered a critical appreciation of the book. Finally, in his concluding remarks, the author thanked the Museum administration for making the venue available, and the large audience for their participation in the event. The soriee’ ended with the book signing, and the geusts being entratined to a glass of wine in the Museum courtyard. More cultural events of this kind are planned for the future.
We are reproducing the presentation of the book by Mr George Camilleri.
The Cross Across the Years
A brief review of The Cross by George Gauci (2013)
26th April 2013
The first impression I gained when I was given this publication was a mixed one, made up of the familiar and the mysterious. The book had smart looks, sober livery, a cryptic title, and an author with a familiar face, though artistically, an unknown quantity. The blurbs were brief but bland – careful not to reveal much about the story. I looked for the table of contents – not found… more mystery. I just had to read it.
What I found after reading the first few chapters – there are 21, by the way – was a tale of family, weddings, children, deaths, people falling in love, more weddings, more children, and the cycle goes on. Nothing in particular seems to happen outside of normality. The story, in these early parts, is inhabited by characters who are mostly rural, kind and generous with each other; good neighbourly people who go out of their way to make life easy for everyone else. Everybody does good turns to everybody else, not to mention the frequent offerings of free meals and drinks, and accommodation. There are even free coffins, free horse stables and free wedding dresses put in for good measure. For a moment, the story entered a danger zone, a world where people and events were so good and fortunate, the interaction so predictable, that it was taking on the substance of a sugar-coated fairy-tale in the unlikely setting of early 20th century Hal Qormi.
Then, in the nick of time, comes the crisis. Enter Grace, the femme fatale, and the story really gets going. Here was a person who, unlike all the rest, was not intent on doing good to others, but to oneself. The iniquitous force of selfishness, with its sultry good looks and sensual allure, drives the story forward, striking down people and their happy lives it its path, endearing itself momentarily to some, inevitably self-destructive at the end. In its wake come deceit, blackmail, mob incitement, false accusations, murder, and ultimately, tragedy. Grace’s upper-class background and her stately home in Luqa are skilfully drawn and convincing.
One may ask, what about the cryptic title then? The eight-pointed cross makes the occasional brief entry across the saga of the Gawchis, one that spans a good 60-odd years of the 20th century, not including an extended and highly vivid flashback to the Great Siege of 1565. Unlike Grace, the Cross in this novel is a benevolent force, attesting to heroic deeds, honour and family values.
And where is Gozo in all this? To be honest, I think Gozo deserved to feature more prominently in the story, being aware that the author has been enjoying its welcome for many years. As if to make up for it, Gozo is the place where most of the drama takes place. Also, perhaps to mitigate the author’s sense of guilt, three of the main characters are called George, Giorgio, and Giorgino, and we all know that in this part of the world, this also makes good marketing sense. But one must not get carried away. I noted that the key wedding scene is set in a church in Victoria which, however, is not indentified. There are others, you know.
To conclude, I found The Cross a readable and enjoyable narrative, one that expresses a general nostalgia for the past, and we forgive nostalgia if it has a knack of glossing over the rough edges of life, in the same way we forgive the occasional typo when the text is a good read. The story itself reveals a strong and unshakeable love and respect of family values and a strong belief in the triumph of goodness. As a first novel for George Gauci, it augurs well.