Phelps, Daphne 1913(?)-
PHELPS, Daphne 1913(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1913, in England; immigrated to Sicily, Italy, 1948.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Carroll & Graf, 245 West 17th St., Eleventh Floor, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Psychiatric social worker in London, England, until 1948; owner/operator, Casa Cuseni, Taormina, Sicily, Italy, beginning 1948—.
A House in Sicily (memoir), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: When Daphne Phelps inherited Casa Cuseni, a villa in Taormina, Sicily, in 1947, she was not sure she could maintain it and thought she might have to sell it. Instead, she decided to turn the house into a pensione or hotel. Eventually, Phelps attracted the likes of Bertrand Russell, Tennessee Williams, and Roald Dahl to her enchanting estate in the shadow of Mt. Etna. As Phelps recounts in her memoir, A House in Sicily, seh arrived in war-weary Sicily speaking very little Italian and—unusual at the time—unmarried. Despite these challenges, she fell in love with the house and decided to give up her career as a London-based psychiatric social worker and become a hotelier in Sicily.
Phelps's memoir is filled with anecdotes of life in the small Italian town as well as with portraits of aristocrats and literary figures. "Particularly amusing is the account of [William] Faulkner's visit, accompanied by six cats, three dogs, a duck, and a baby goat," noted Library Journal reviewer Nancy R. Ives. According to Booklist reviewer Alice Joyce, the "town of Taormina and its townspeople come alive in Phelps' deftly rendered portrayals." Corby Kummer, writing in the New York Times Book Review, also enjoyed Phelps's characterizations, stating that her writing shows a "determination to let other people—and the house itself—come to the fore." Kummer concluded that this approach "gives her writing a steady if modest charm, particularly for readers weary of confessional memoirs. The result is a loving portrait of a country mentality … and of a vanishing way of life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Phelps, Daphne, A House in Sicily, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.
Booklist, August, 1999, Alice Joyce, review of A House in Sicily, p. 2019.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Nancy R. Ives, review of A House in Sicily, p. 125.
New York Times Book Review, September 19, 1999, Corby Kummer, "White Elephant," review of A House in Sicily, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 1999, review of A House in Sicily, p. 72.
Sicily Books Web site, http://www.sicilybooks.it/ (August 27, 2004), review of A House in Sicily.*