What’s special about Corsica?

I’m excited to tell you that The Corsican Widow is Ocelot Press’s Book of the Month for June 2021. This is Book 2 in the Tales of Corsica series. It’s based loosely on a true story and is set mainly on the Mediterranean island of Corsica and partly in the port of Marseille.  

Why does Corsica interest me so much as a writer?

Stunning scenery

The Greeks called it ‘Kalliste’, the beautiful one; and Corsica certainly is beautiful in a savage, rugged kind of way. The Genoese ruled the island for hundreds of years and ceded it to France in 1868. But Corsica is not quite French and not quite Italian, either. I have spent six vacations there – and I am hooked.

Saint-Florent with the mountains of Cap Corse in the background

Corsica has always been a land apart. And while it’s a well-known tourist destination, it’s not as familiar to us as mainland France. Here are some reasons why the island inspires me.

First, it has terrific scenery and picturesque villages. The island is one big mountain range rising out of the sea, with narrow coastal areas. Homecoming Corsicans claim they can smell the maquis – the scrubland of aromatic plants – before they can see the land itself. This atmospheric place is made for a romantic or dramatic story.

Captivating history and culture

Second, Corsica has a fascinating history. Its strategic position in the Mediterranean means that it was always being invaded, from the earliest prehistoric times. The Corsicans often struggled against their invaders and established an independent republic in 1755. But because of their clannish traditions and being only a small island with limited military capacity, they were never sufficiently well organised to expel foreign rulers.

Although riven by scrapping warlords, Corsica was never a feudal society, unlike the rest of Europe. And the concept of personal and family honour was particularly strong, often culminating in vendetta when honour was breached. The French novelists were particularly captivated by this aspect of Corsican life.

Third, aspects of Corsican culture that persist today were forged in prehistoric times. Myths and beliefs in magic and the supernatural, onto which the Roman Catholic religion was grafted, date far back in time and are specific to Corsica.

The prehistoric site with standing stones at Filitosa

Unique musical tradition

Finally, Corsica has a unique musical tradition, with its voceru, or songs improvised in honour of the dead, polyphonic chanting and other musical forms that are particular to the island. We once went to a wonderful concert in the church in Corte, performed by musical group Meridianu. This elemental music evoked the spirit of Corsica.

One of the authorities on Corsican history and culture, Dorothy Carrington, first visited the island just after World War II. She eventually made Corsica her home. In her magisterial book, Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica (Penguin), she writes of her first parting from Corsica:

“When I went aboard the ship…I already knew, by one of those decisions taken below consciousness, so as to seem like a judgement passed, an order received, that Corsica would be my lot.” 

These prophetic words seem to echo my own experience.

The Corsican Widow on promotion

**Look out for some reduced price promos to come this month for the Kindle version.** The Corsican Widow is also available in paperback.

Here’s the blurb:

A strict island society. A forbidden love. The two are bound to collide.

Corsica, 1755.

Valeria Peretti’s family plans to marry her to a wealthy older man whom she has never met. Valeria expects to lead a quiet life, but a prophecy on the eve of her wedding spells mortal danger ahead.

After her husband’s death, Valeria finds herself friendless in a hostile village and turns to her only ally. But when she is unjustly accused of a serious crime, she is stunned to learn that a secret enemy wants her dead.

While Corsica fights for its independence, can Valeria win her own desperate battles to save her life?

A tale of passion, injustice and revenge.

“I highly recommend this beautifully written and engaging story for lovers of historical fiction.” BookMuse

“In the best historical novel tradition.” Discovering Diamonds Reviews

“The rugged, often starkly sublime colour of the island [is] beautifully portrayed. A well written and easy read.” Tripfiction

You might also like:

Courtship and Marriage Corsican Style

Magic and the Supernatural in Corsica

Women in Traditional Corsican Society

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2021. All rights reserved.

Published by Vanessa in France

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.

3 thoughts on “What’s special about Corsica?

  1. It’s easy to see why the French are in love with Corsica — despite their often contentious relations with ‘Les Corses’. I’ve only been there once and look forward to going back one day soon. Congrats on seeing your novel featured as book of the month!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The French do indeed have an ambivalent relationship with Corsica, or rather with les Corses. When my hairdresser’s husband learned I was going there on holiday, he made a dismissive gesture and turned his back on me!

      Liked by 1 person

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